Number of older cared for children higher in London than national average

The percentage of children 16 or over categorised as cared for was higher in London than the national average in 2020, according to government statistics. 

As of March 2020, 24% of ‘looked after’ children in England were aged 16 plus, but in London the age group made up 37% of cared for children.

That percentage was even higher at 39% in inner London.

The ‘children looked after in England including adoptions’ statistics refer to children looked after on 31 March 2020, defining ‘looked after’ as children who had been put under the responsibility of their Local Authority.

This included numbers of looked after children adopted, care leavers, and looked after children gone missing.

In Lambeth, 154 of the 358 children categorised as ‘looked after’ were 16 or older. 

At 43%, the ratio of older children was the highest of the south west London boroughs. 

There were more cared for children in this age group than any other within Lambeth.

This was a trend in south west London, with 16 plus also being the largest category of cared for children in Hammersmith and Fulham, Wandsworth, Richmond, Merton, Kingston, and Croydon.

Sutton was the exception with more cared for children aged 10-15, making up 39% of the council’s total 233 ‘looked after children’. 

But 16 plus was the second largest group making up 32% of the total in the borough.

Croydon had the most ‘looked after’ children overall at 791, likely because it is London’s second most populous borough and the Home Office’s Asylum Intake Unit, Lunar House, is located in Croydon town centre.

With 333 of those children aged 16 and older, 42% of looked after children were in the older group.

But why are there generally more older ‘looked after’ in London than elsewhere in the country? 

Home For Good is a charity dedicated to finding homes for children who need them by raising awareness of the needs of vulnerable children and young people.

Spokesperson Natalie Mills said: “There are likely to be a range of socio-economic factors behind the higher numbers of older children in care in the London area compared to the national average. 

“However, we know that poverty levels are higher in London in comparison to average poverty levels across the rest of England.

“This is likely to play a significant role in causing families to experience significant stress which may increase the likelihood of harmful behaviours, and therefore reduced capacity to parent children appropriately.

“Older children in the care system are the fastest-growing and largest cohort among looked after children and yet there is increasing evidence that the system has not adjusted to meet their needs. 

“This is resulting in many teenagers in care being placed in inappropriate forms of accommodation, outside of a family environment, despite the complex needs that many of them have.  

“It is vital that we ensure there are enough homes in the right places, with the right skills to be able to welcome teenagers who enter the care system and provide them with the stability they need.”

The Government’s national statistics for ‘children looked after in England including adoptions’ was released in December 2020 and updated February 2021.

Featured image credit: Priscilla Du Preez 

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