Increase in under 4's being taken into care

Increase in under 4's being taken into care

Published by Maria Greenwood at 10:37am 17th February 2020.

The numbers of children in the care of Dorset Council had risen again – currently standing at 473 – 5 per cent up on the end of March figure.

Councillors were told on Tuesday that there has also been a dramatic switch-around in the statistics –  with more children under four coming into care, compared 12-15 year-olds, which has usually been the largest cohort.

'Early intervention' 

The change is partially seen as a reflection of social workers acting earlier in line with the Dorset Council policy of prompt intervention. Some children are being taken into care at or shortly after birth.

Dorset, compared to similar counties, has more children in care as a percentage of the population than similar authorities, including others in the South West.

child holding hands

'The need for more homes' 

Changes underway in children’s social services and fostering are seeking to address this alongside a policy of finding more homes for in care children and young people within the rural county.

Almost a quarter of those currently in Dorset Council’s care are more than 20 miles from home, often because there are no suitable places within the council area.

Executive director Theresa Leavy said that by investing in and developing local carers the council ought to be able to offer looked after children more places closer to their homes, maintaining their local links.

She said that when children were out of the county it became more difficult for them to engage with services and maintain important local links to family, friends and the wider community.

There was also an additional cost for social worker to supervise them.

But she said that, for some, being close to home would not be the right choice and there would always be children who needed specialist care which Dorset was unable to offer.

Photo of child playing

Ms Leavy told councillors that supporting children to be at home should be the first option with care in a family setting, such as foster care, as a second option –  but that would depend upon recruiting sufficient foster cares within the county to be able to match the child with the right foster family.

She said that one of the areas of greatest need, Weymouth and Portland, had the least foster carers and those wanting to adopt  – something which she said was being addressed.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter