Essex: Children in care numbers decrease

THE number of children in care in Essex reduced by nearly 150 last year, it has emerged.

There were 1,483 children being looked after by the state in April 2012, but by October that figure had dropped to 1,335.

The figures came to light in the annual report of Essex County Council’s corporate parenting panel.

In his report, Ray Gooding, panel chairman, said: “The downward trend evidences the continued impact of the county’s work with partners to improve the range of services offered to support parents, families and vulnerable children.

“When children are considered to be at risk, swift targeted assessments and interventions should be provided within the community.”

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Mr Gooding said that the drop between April and October came after the number of children in care per 10,000 had fallen from 53 in 2010/11 to 50 in 2011/12.

Essex’s figure was lower than the national figure of 59, but higher than the number for neighbouring authorities, which was 47.

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Mr Gooding added: “The decrease in the numbers of looked-after children that is detailed within this report has been achieved by the implementation of a number of measures.

“It is to be hoped that, given the challenges that face looked-after children both in their educational achievement and their life chances, this can continue into the future.

“However, ‘corporate parents’ should not lose sight of the difficulties that have seriously affected children in care in the recent past and to that end the panel is currently considering measures by which elected members can, in conjunction with officers, retain an oversight of the whole process that serves the children and young people.”

The report also explained that there was an increase in the number of families signing up to be foster families in 2012, especially during National Foster Care Fortnight in May.

Mr Gooding said: “The county has highlighted the need to recruit and retain foster carer placements for sibling groups, older children or children with complex needs.

“From April 2012 to the end of September 2012, a net increase of 24 foster care beds was achieved.”

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