Care population on the rise for 15th year running

Research from the Department of Education (DoE) reveals that the number of people receiving care in England has increased for the 15th consecutive year.

This growth is primarily down to the increase in unaccompanied asylum-seeking children coming to the UK, the data shows. 

From 31 March 2023, there were 83,840 children in care, marking a 2% rise year-on-year. Furthermore, 1,620 of the 1,760 rise is attributed to unaccompanied children, highlighting the gravitas of the situation. 

In the 2022-23 period, unaccompanied young individuals constituted 21% of the total children placed in care, amounting to 7,090 out of 33,000. This marks a significant increase compared to their 10% proportion in 2020-21. 

Meanwhile, the annual intake of other children into care has shown relatively consistent numbers during this timeframe.

Asylum-seeking children in unregulated settings increases two-fold

The number of asylum-seeking children in unregulated settings has doubled, as highlighted by the data. Notably, there has been a 110% increase in the placement of unaccompanied young people in unregulated settings from 2021 to 2023.

The figures also demonstrate a significant shift in the provision for unaccompanied young individuals, with the number placed in independent or semi-independent settings more than doubling from 2,120 to 4,450. This surpasses the 76% increase in the overall number of unaccompanied children, which rose from 4,150 to 7,290 during the same period.

As of March 2023, 61% of asylum-seeking children were situated in unregulated settings, marking an increase from 51% two years prior. It is noteworthy that, since September 2021, councils have been prohibited from placing individuals under the age of 16 in unregulated settings. Despite this, the proportion of 16- and 17-year-old asylum seekers in such placements rose to 71% in March 2023, up from 56% in 2021.

Since October 2023, councils were prohibited from utilising independent settings entirely. Additionally, they are restricted from assigning young individuals to semi-independent placements unless the providers are registered under Ofsted’s newly established supported accommodation regime.

A DfE spokesperson said: “Every child deserves a safe and secure home, no matter their background, and local authorities have a responsibility to provide appropriate support for all children in their care.

“We are supporting them by improving the recruitment of foster carers and increasing the number of places available locally in both secure and open children’s homes.

“The placement of under-16s in unregulated provision has been banned since September 2021, and this year we have ended its use for 16- and 17-year-olds.”

carlette Isaac

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