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Number of looked after children at 31 March 2020 increased by 2 per cent on a year ago

Children looked after on 31 March 2020 increased to 80,080, from 78,140 last year – up 2 per cent on the corresponding date last year. This is a rate of 67 per 10,000 children, up from 65 last year.

The figures are revealed in statistics released by the Department for Education.

Children starting to be looked after decreased to 30,970, from 31,770 last year – down 3 per cent. Children ceasing to be looked after were 29,590, very similar to 29,570 last year.

Children looked after who were adopted were 3,440, from 3,590 last year – down 4 per cent. This continues the fall seen since a peak of 5,360 adoptions in 2015.

Commenting on the figures, Jenny Coles, President of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, said:

"These figures show the continued support that local authorities provide to children and young people in their local areas to safeguard and protect them. ADCS research shows that the number of children in care has increased significantly over the past decade, while local authorities have faced a 50 per cent reduction in budgets since 2010. Yet despite the barriers, we continue to work intensively with children and families to enable them to stay together safely. Only through long-term national investment in early help can we ensure that children are not taken into care when they could have stayed with their family and had their needs been met earlier.

"These figures are largely unaffected by the Covid 19 pandemic. While the true impact of national and local lockdowns on vulnerable children and families is only starting to emerge, we anticipate that it will remain with us throughout next year and beyond, with families presenting greater complexity of need. It is essential that we have both the capacity and resources to meet these needs as quickly as possible. The government must provide the sector with a sustainable, equitable and long-term financial settlement that enables children to thrive, not just survive in the wake of the pandemic."