Children in Care and Care Leavers


  • There number of children in care (CiC) in Wakefield as at 31st of March 2021 was 638 which was very similar to the number in March 2020 which was 640.
  • The rate of children in care in Wakefield (per 10,000 population) was 85 in 2021 which was higher than the national rate of 67 but lower than the statistical neighbour rate of 107.70
  • Attainment for children in care in Wakefield has been lower than the national and statistical neighbour rate at key stages 2 (based on latest available data)
  • Rates for the completion of annual health checks for CiC within specified timescales has decreased in 2021 compared with 2020
  • As at March 2021, there were more boys in care with 58% of CIC being male and 42% female
  • By far the most common ethnicity for CiC is white British
  • The main reason children come into care is due to abuse and neglect and this has remained the case for a number of years
  • In 2021 there were 198 Care Leavers an increase from 186 in 2020
  • The percentage of Care Leavers who were not in education, employment or training was 32% in 2021 which was lower than the national and statistical neighbour rates.
The term Children in Care applies to children and young people up to the age of 18 for whom the Local Authority has either sole or shared parental responsibility.  Children can be in care by agreement with parents or by order of a court.   Children who are in care will be living with foster parents, living in a residential children’s home or within another residential setting with a small number living at home with parents whilst subject to a care order.  Children and young people enter care due to range of circumstances and many have suffered abuse or neglect. Research has shown that experiencing abuse and neglect and other adverse childhood experiences along as well as other factors such as living in areas of deprivation impact disproportionately on CiC when compared with those who do not experience care.  It is known that this can lead to poorer outcomes for young people leaving care such as:
  • Lower attainment levels
  • Increased likelihood of emotional and mental health issues
  • Greater likelihood of experiencing poor physical health
  • Economic and social disadvantage.
Research shows that many of these risks can be reduced when children in care have an effective care plan that meets their needs and a placement which is stable with good support from a range of agencies.  The following summary of data provides information about children in care in Wakefield showing the trend over a period of time and how this compares to the rate for England along with the statistical neighbours for Wakefield.  This includes information about the cohort along with outcomes including attainment and health and there is also data on Care Leavers.  Commentary is included to indicate whether Wakefield levels differ greatly from the national and statistical neighbour rates and if this is an area for further analysis.  Data included in this overview is published annually by the Department of Education (DfE) based on the financial year to 31st March which is collected through the SSDA 903 Census which is submitted by all Local Authorities.  In reviewing this data some recommendations have been identified and details are provided on whether and how these are being addressed.

1. The Population

Table 1 - Rate of Children in Care (per 10,000 population)
2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Wakefield 74.00 78.00 82.00 86.00 85.00
Statistical Neighbours 85.40 94.00 97.10 104.20 107.70
National 62.00 64.00 65.00 67.00 67.00
Figure 1 - Rate of Children in Care (Per 10,000 population)
The rate of CiC (per 10,000 population) in Wakefield has increased over the last 5 years from 74 in 2017 to 85 in 2021 and as at the 31st of March 2021 there were 638 Children in Care similar to 640 as at the 31st of March 2020.  This is higher than the national rate of 67.0 but lower than statistical neighbour rate of 107.70.  It should be noted that there has been an increasing trend over the same time period for statistical neighbours and in England as a whole as shown in the chart.   The increase in the number of unaccompanied asylum seekers arriving in the area has been a factor in the higher number.  Although Wakefield has also seen an increasing trend, the actual number of CiC in Wakefield has increased since 2016.  Since March 2020 and into 2021 the number of CiC has steadied. The 3 charts below give a breakdown of age, gender, ethnicity for CiC and also where they live (within their care placement).  The radio buttons on the right hand side of each chart can be used to show the detail for previous years and different geographical locations.
Figure 2 - Children in Care - Gender, Age & Ethnicity
Figure 3 - Children in Care - Area of Placement
The number of children who came into care in 2021 decreased to 220 from 260 in 2020 and this was higher than for statistical neighbours.
Table 2 – Number of children entering care
No of Children Entering Care 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Wakefield 175 223 253 260 220
Statistical Neighbours 213 217 209 217 196
Children’s Social Care in Wakefield recognises the need to reverse the increasing trend of children coming into care with a focus on earlier intervention and developments have been introduced to support this.  The Families Achieving Change Team was established in 2019 to work with older children and young people and their families with the specific aim of preventing children coming into care during a crisis situation.  Alternative plans are implemented for children and their families which may for example provide a family with intensive support within their own home to de-escalate emerging issues and provide positive solutions.  The latest data shows that these interventions can make a real difference in maintaining family relationships and preventing care.  Wakefield Families Together is an approach which was launched in 2020 to establish teams with professionals from different agencies, ie Children First Hubs, Children’s Social Care, Health, Police and other services to ensure children, young people and families are supported at the earliest possible stage.  The teams are co-located and work alongside each other across the 6 cluster areas in Wakefield and they are focused around schools with regular meetings with schools to discuss cases where families may require additional support.  More information is found here: Wakefield Families Together – Wakefield Families Together

2. Level of Need and Outcomes for Children in Care

Children and young people enter care for a number of reasons. The reasons for their entry into care are selected and coded against the national DfE criteria, below is a breakdown of the category of need for children in care in 2021.
Figure 4 - Breakdown of category of need of children in care
  The most common reason why children come into care in Wakefield by far is abuse or neglect which has been consistent over a number of years.  With the aim of ensuring that neglect is identified at an early stage the Neglect Toolkit has been developed through the Wakefield Children’s Safeguarding Partnership and training continues to be rolled out on a multi agency basis.  The toolkit supports practitioners to identify neglect within the family setting to be able to factor appropriate interventions into the care plan. Generally children and young people in care tend to have poorer outcomes in terms of health, education and overall wellbeing than children who have not experienced care.  Closing the gap between the educational attainment of CiC and all children and young people is a key priority in Wakefield.  A higher percentage of CiC require additional support at school compared with children who are not in care.  The figure below shows the percentage of CiC identified with special educational needs (SEN) Statement or with an Education, Health & Care plan (EHCP).
Figure 5 – % of CiC with SEN Statement/ EHCP
Due to coronavirus pandemic, data has not yet been updated for 2021-21. In Wakefield, 26% of CiC had a EHCP in 2020, lower than the 2019 national rate of 27.2% but higher than the 2019 statistical neighbour rate of 23.8%.  Over the last 5 years, there has been a small reduction in the % with an EHCP.  In Wakefield in 2020 32.3% were identified with SEN support (no statement/EHCP) If the 2 percentages are combined this is a significant proportion of the CiC population who require some level of support within the education setting.  In 2020, 3.22% of all pupils in Wakefield had an EHCP which shows a much higher proportion of CiC require support compared with the overall school population. In terms of attainment, average progress scores for CiC at Key Stage 2 (end of primary school) and Key Stage 4 (end of secondary school) have been considered.  Average progress scores aim to capture the progress pupils make at the end of primary school and the end of secondary school.  Pupils’ results are compared to the actual achievements of other pupils with similar prior attainment.  A score of 0 means pupils on average do about as well as those with similar prior attainment nationally.  A positive score means pupils on average do better and a negative school means pupils on average do worse, although this does not mean that pupils did not make progress rather they made less progress than other pupils nationally. The tables below show attainment progress scores for CiC at key stage 2 and key stage 4 over the last 3 years to 2019. Data is not available for 2020 or 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Table 3 – Average progress scores for CiC in reading, writing & maths at Key Stage 2
Reading Writing Maths
2016 2017 2018 2019 2016 2017 2018 2019 2016 2017 2018 2019
Wakefield -1.2 -0.7 -2.7 -3.3 0.3 1.2 -2.1 -5 -2.3 0.5 -2.2 -3.8
Statistical Neighbours 1.47 0.02 0.72 -0.02 -0.22 0.54 0.97 0.93 0.12 -0.3 0.48 -0.43
National -0.5 -0.7 -0.2 -0.2 -1 -0.9 -0.8 -0.8 -1.3 -1.1 -0.8 -1.00
Average progress scores for CiC at Key Stage 2 in Wakefield improved in 2017 although this has been followed by a decline in 2018 and 2019.  CiC in Wakefield made less progress than children at a similar level in all 3 areas and progress was well below statistical neighbours and the national score.  These scores are based on a very small cohort of children and so small fluctuations can have a significant impact on the overall score.  It is likely that the cohort in 2018 and 2019 required a high level of additional support.
Table 4 –Average progress score for CiC at Key Stage 4
2016 2017 2018 2019
Wakefield -1.37 -0.58 -1.36 -0.73
Statistical Neighbours -1.1 -1.22 -1.34 -1.32
National -1.14 -1.18 -1.2 -1.23
In 2019 CiC at Key Stage 4 made more progress than others with a similar attainment level compared with 2018 and the score of -0.73 is better than that of the statistical neighbour score of -1.32 and the national score of -1.23 so attainment for CiC at Key Stage 4 was higher than other similar local authority areas. It is really important that CiC in Wakefield both at the primary school and the secondary school setting should be able to attain in line with their peers. All CiC have a personal education plan which sets out goals in terms of attainment and how this will be achieved.  The Head of the Virtual School in Wakefield is working with schools to improve support for CiC who have not met expected levels of attainment.  As there has been no attainment data available in 2020 and there will be none available for 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic it may not be possible to evaluate the impact of the situation over the past 18 months on the learning of CiC.  Although schools were closed during some of the year, CiC were still able to attend as normal although there may have been some missed sessions to self isolation requirements and the impact of this may not be known for some time. Whilst most CiC experience the same health issues as their peers, their past experiences and family situations can exacerbate ongoing health issues and conditions which have been impacted by abuse or neglect and it has already been highlighted that this is the main factor why children come into care in Wakefield.  It is recognised that CiC have higher levels of health need than children and young people from similar socio-economic backgrounds who are not in care.  To ensure that health needs are identified and addressed, statutory health and dental checks must be carried out for CiC. The figure below shows the percentage of CiC who were in care continuously for at least 12 months and who had an annual health check in the last year.
Figure 6 – Percentage of CiC having annual health checks
It is important that checks are completed annually for all CiC to ensure that any issues are addressed appropriately and timely and that conditions do not deteriorate.  The data shows there has been a decline in health assessments being carried out in timescale since 2018.  During 2020 there has been a significant piece of work to ensure this is improved.  Processes for booking health assessments have been reviewed to ensure there is robust monitoring. To ensure there is continued high rates of completion of health assessments, the CiC Service is closely monitoring the data on a regular basis. The figure below shows completion for dental checks over the same period.  An annual dental check should be carried out for all CiC who have been in care continuously for 12 months.  For young children under 3 years of age, who may not yet have seen a Dentist this would take the form of an oral check.
Figure 7 – Percentage of CiC having annual dental checks
Annual dental checks have been improving since 2018, with a decrease in 2021. With the ongoing pandemic, it appears that Wakefield, the Statistical Neighbours and the National rate has taken a plunge this year, this was due to Dentists not seeing patients for routine appointments.  As with health checks it is vital that checks are carried out appropriately for all CiC to ensure that any preventative measures can be taken.  Completion of both dental and health checks are areas that continue to require attention but the rate of timely dental checks has increased significantly since Dentists reopened for routine appointments in Autumn 2021. It is known that CiC can experience more mental health issues which may be due to their previous life experiences.  The strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ) is a standardised and validated mental health assessment tool used to assess CIC’s emotional wellbeing.  A higher score indicates there are more difficulties for a child with a score up to 15 considered low/no need, 15 – 17 indicates some/medium need and 17 and over deemed as high need. The table below shows the average SDQ score for CiC in Wakefield and comparator information.
Table 5 – Average SDQ Score for CiC
SDQ - Emotional Health 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Wakefield 15.80 15.60 15.00 13.90 14.80
Statistical Neighbours 15.06 14.13 14.60 14.30 13.84
National 14.10 14.20 14.20 14.10 13.70
The average score in Wakefield in 2021 was 14.80 which would be deemed within the low/normal range, this was slightly higher than the statistical neighbour rate of 13.84 and national rate of 13.70. CiC in Wakefield who have a score of 15 and over can be referred to the Emotional Wellbeing Service for support and the Service works with Children & Adolescent Mental Health Services to consider which children may need more specialist and intensive support. In the last few years, the percentage of CiC identified as having a substance misuse problem during the year has been so low, that comparison with the national or statistical neighbour rates is inappropriate.  It may be helpful to review data to confirm low levels. In the last few years, the % of CiC subject to a conviction, final warning or reprimand during the year has been so low, that comparison with the national or statistical neighbour rates is inappropriate.  It may also be helpful to review data to confirm low levels. Children who come into care will live in a range of settings such as foster care, children’s homes, specialist provision which provides specific support and in very rare occasions some may be in secure units.  The main aim for CiC is that they can live in a long term placement and that changes to where they live are minimised.  This will help secure the best outcomes for CiC.  The number of placement moves is monitored for children who have been in care for 12 months or more, the figure below shows children who have had 3 or more placement moves in the last 12 months.  It is important to highlight that some placement moves will be positive, for example if a child is moving in with their adoptive family or into a long term foster placement.
Figure 8 - Percentage of CiC with 3 or more placement moves in last 12 months
In 2021, 11% of CiC experienced 3 or more placement moves within the previous 12 months.  This was similar to previous years. In 2019, within the CiC Service, processes were introduced to improve placement stability for CiC to ensure placement moves are managed and take place in a planned way rather than breaking down unexpectedly. Another important measure for placements is the length of time that a child has been in a placement as an aim is that children have long term placements.  The figure below shows the percentage of CiC who have been looked after for 2.5 years and who have been in the same placement for 2 years or more.
Figure 9 - % of CiC who have been in care for 2.5 years and in the same placement for 2 years
There was an increase in placement stability in 2021 although still slightly lower than statistical neighbours. The rate had declined in 2020 when 60% of CiC in the same placement for 2 years or more (of those who had been in care for 2.5 years).  This was lower than the statistical neighbour of 66% and national rate of 68%.  This has now increased in 2021, although still slightly lower than statistical neighbours. This is an area that would benefit for some further review.  It should be noted that some placement moves are positive, ie children moving into an adoptive placement or moving from a residential placement to live with a long term foster carer.

3. Outcomes For Care Leavers

Young people may be legally in care up until the age of 18 although they are able to leave care from the age of 16.  If the young person has been in care for a minimum of 13 weeks, some of which was after age 16 they are entitled to receive support until the age of 25 if they choose to do so.  Figure 6 below shows that in 2021 there were 198 Care Leavers aged between 19 and 21 years, which has increased since 2017 when there were 130 Care Leavers, this is consistent with the overall rise in numbers of CiC.  In 2020, the number of Care Leavers was 186 which was higher than the statistical neighbour average of 129.
Figure 10 – Number of Care Leavers 19 – 21 years
  It is important to know that Care Leavers live in the right type of accommodation and that they are not experiencing housing issues which may make them vulnerable.
Table 6 - % of Care Leavers in Suitable Accommodation
LA 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Wakefield 86.00% 89.00% 74.00% 79.00% 84.00%
Statistical Neighbours 90.90% 90.80% 88.67% 92.00% 91.90%
National 84.00% 84.00% 85.00% 85.00% 88.00%
Table 6 shows that although there has been an increase in the percentage of Care Leavers judged to be in suitable accommodation in 2021 with a rate of 84% in suitable accommodation, this was still below the national rate of 88% and statistical neighbour rate of 91.90%.  It is known there are still  some issues in recording of accommodation information on the case management system which is being addressed by the Leaving Care Service and data is being reviewed on a more regularly basis which should lead to a truer reflection of accommodation suitability for Care Leavers.  As the numbers of Care Leavers will be continuing to increase over the coming years, the Sufficiency Strategy was refreshed in 2020 and a Sufficiency Action Plan has been developed which is focusing on providing support to secure suitable move on and independent accommodation for Care Leavers through working with partners such as Social Landlords. It is possible for Care Leavers to stay with their former Foster Carer after they turn 18.  This is known as staying put which provides some continuity and additional support for Care Leavers until they turn 21.  In Wakefield the approach of supported lodgings is now being developed which will be another way that Care Leavers can gain continued informal support within their accommodation.
Table 7 - % of Care Leavers Staying With Their Former Foster Carer
  2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Wakefield 35.00% 29.00% 29.00% 29.00% 32.00%
Statistical Neighbours 34.57% 36.71% 29.80% 31.43% 30.71%
England 25.00% 26.00% 26.00% 28.00% 30.00%
Although there has been a decrease in the percentage of Care Leavers who are staying with their former Foster Care since 2017, in 2021 the rate was 32% which was above the national rate of 30% the statistical neighbour rate of 30.71%. The status of Care Leavers is tracked to determine whether they are in education, employment or training, data relating to this in the table below.
Table 8 - % of Care Leavers not in education, employment or training
LA 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Wakefield 44.00% 18.00% 39.00% 38.00% 32.00%
Statistical Neighbours 47.70% 42.10% 44.80% 42.60% 43.50%
England 40.00% 39.00% 39.00% 39.00% 41.00%
In Wakefield in 2021 32% of Care Leavers were not in education, employment or training (NEET) which had reduced from 2020 being 38%. This was lower than the statistical neighbour rate and national rate. The 2018 rate of 18% is erroneous.  In 2020, a NEET Strategy Group was established to increase employment and education opportunities for all young people and this will also focus on Care Leavers.  Personal Advisors will provide support to ensure employment and education are identified and sustained when required and NEET Clinics are held where opportunities are considered to enable Care Leavers to benefit from education, employment or training.  The table below shows the percentage of Care Leavers who were in higher education.
Table 9 – Care Leavers who were in higher education
LA 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Wakefield 6% - 6% 5% 4%
Statistical Neighbour 6% 7% 6.83% 7.50% 8%
England 7% 6% 6% 6% 6%
This figure has not yet been published for 2021. So based on the previous years data, the table shows that 4% of Care Leavers were in higher education in 2020, lower than the statistical neighbour rate and national rate of 8%.  Increasing the number of Care Leavers who enter higher education has been identified in the recently refreshed Children & Young People Improvement Plan for 2021.

4. Key Findings and Recommendations

Having considered the key messages from the data the following recommendations have been identified:
  • It has apparent there has been an increasing trend of CiC over the last 5 years and recognising the impact of this in terms of longer term outcomes for children and young people and pressure on resources for services, early intervention should be clearly focused on preventing the escalation of issues to a statutory level wherever possible. The Wakefield Families Together Programme is strengthening this approach.  It has been identified that the numbers of CIC in 2020-21 have remained steady and this should continue to be monitored
  • Support for CiC within the primary school setting should be reviewed to enable the attainment of CiC to be improved at key stage 2 and be closer to their peers and there will be discussions with the Virtual School in Wakefield
  • It has been identified there are low levels of offending and substance misuse and it would be helpful to look further at the data to be assured this is reflective of the CiC cohort
  • It is clear that more could be done to ensure that health and dental checks are carried out in line with statutory requirements and that these are recorded to ensure that the health needs of CiC are fully addressed
  • As the percentage of CiC who have been in the same placement for over 2 years is lower than the statistical neighbour rate, the data should be reviewed to understand the reasons for these placement moves (some of which can be positive)
  • Data on Care Leaver accommodation should continue to be reviewed to ensure recording is accurate and increase the rate so this is in line with statistical neighbours
  • The action to support more Care Leavers to enter higher education which is now included in the Children & Young People Improvement Plan should be closely monitored.

5. Children in Care Service Provision

Wakefield Council’s Children in Care Services include a wide variety of services to address the needs of our CiC, complying with all statutory requirements for CiC. Some services available to local CiC include the following:
  • Children in Care Social Work Teams ensuring all CiC have an allocated Social Worker who develops a nurturing relationship with the child or young person and works with them to identify their needs and ensure these are met through an effective care plan
  • Four dedicated residential care homes for CIC including those with a disability and further plans for the development of two smaller two bedded units
  • A Virtual Head Teacher that supports the Education of all CIC ensuring that each child has a regular review and tailored support plan to help them to achieve their potential
  • A dedicated Contact Service that supports children to stay in touch with their family and friends
  • An Independent Reviewing Officer Service which ensures statutory reviews are carried out for all CiC within the statutory timescales and ensures effective implementation of care plans
  • A CiC Emotional Wellbeing and Therapeutic Service to provide early support, assessment of need and therapeutic interventions for CiC to be maintained in their placements including those placed in fostering , kinship and residential care arrangements
  • A dedicated team of Placement Commissioners to secure placements for CiC in foster care, secure welfare facilities, residential care and parent and baby placements
  • A Fostering Team to support our Foster Carers and actively recruit new Foster Carers to ensure that CiC can live in a long term placement within their community
  • Wakefield are part of a regional adoption agency, One Adoption West Yorkshire which is a regional arrangement that supports the recruitment and support of adoptive families
  • The Next Steps Service provides support for Care Leavers in the district aged 16 to 25 years old.
Health Services
  • NHS West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board (ICB) are responsible for delivering statutory health assessments and providing support for CiC in Wakefield. This includes an initial assessment which is carried out by a Doctor when a children or young person enters care followed by an annual review health assessment by a team of Specialist Nurses. The Specialist Nurses provide an ongoing source of support and advice to CiC, including “packages of care” to meet needs identified at health assessments, including improving understanding of healthy eating, healthy relationships, sexual health and contraception, hygiene and self-care, dental care, smoking, drugs and alcohol. They also support young people to transition to adult services and have developed a Leaving Care health summary to provide young people with important information about their health from birth. CiC are able to access universal health care services such as sexual health . All children are registered with a GP and a dentist to ensure their health needs are fully met.
  • The CCG is also commissioned to provide a dedicated CAMHS service for our CiC. In addition they co fund along with Children’s Social care an Emotional wellbeing Team with 4 practitioners offering tier 1 and 2 support to our CIC and also provide practical support for Residential Childrens Homes and Foster Carers. Wider support and training for staff and carers is also part of the team’s remit and there is close working with staff in the residential Childrens Homes, which is important when young people are not willing to directly see a mental health worker, so training for social workers and carers to support the young person is an alternative approach. Therapeutic Social workers also play an important role in supporting young people and carers when things have improved and they no longer need to be seen by the specialist service.