Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has published the Children’s Commissioner’s 2019 Stability Index, an annual measure of the stability of the lives of children in care in England. The Index was launched in 2017 and shines a light on the number of times children in care move home placement, school or social worker. For the first time, the Index publishes stability figures for each council.
This year’s Stability Index shows how the profile and needs of children in care has changed over the last five years, driven by a growing share of older children and teenage care entrants who have more complex needs and potentially more expensive living arrangements. They are six times more likely than children under 13 to be living in residential or secure children’s homes, and nearly half are living in privately-run accommodation.
It shows how the number of teenagers (aged 13 or over) in care rose by 21% between 2012/13 and 2017/18, while the number of 0-5 year olds fell by 15%, and how there has been a large increase in the number of over 16s entering care during the year. This number grew by 25% between 2013/14 and 2017/18 – much higher than for any other age group. As a result, nearly 1 in 4 children in care (23%) is now over 16. A further 2 in 5 (39%) are aged 10-15.
These changes over the last five years have transformed the children’s care model from one based on very young children living in foster homes, to one where more and more older children are entering care and needing more specialist homes. These are teenagers who are significantly more likely to have the following issues flagged up by social workers: child sexual exploitation (6 times more likely), going missing from home (7 times more likely), gangs (5 times more likely), trafficking (12 times more likely) and child drug misuse (4 times more likely).
Older children and teenagers who enter care also experience much higher levels of instability: they are around 80% more likely (compared to the national average) to experience two or more changes of home within a year.
The Children’s Commissioner is today warning that councils and the Government have yet to catch up with this new normal, which is contributing to instability in the care system.
You can download the report here.