This year’s Stability Index has found a growing number of older children and teenagers entering the care system, who have more complex needs. Between 2012/13 and 2017/18, the number of teenagers (aged 13 or over) in care rose by 21%, and between 2013/14 and 2017/18, the number of over 16s entering care has grown by 25%. As a result, nearly 1 in 4 children in care (23%) is now over 16 and a further 2 in 5 (39%) are aged 10-15.
Older children and teenagers who enter care experience much higher levels of instability and are around 80% more likely to experience two or more changes of home within a year.
In response to the findings, Dr John Simmonds, Director of Policy, Research and Development at CoramBAAF said:
“The publication of the Children’s Commissioner’s Stability Index for 2019 raises and reinforces a powerful message about the increasingly serious challenge to the care system. When a child or young person comes into care this will have resulted from a significant crisis in their own family. The primary responsibility of the care system is to provide a safe, secure and a stable environment that lasts for a long as the child needs it. The stability index clearly identifies that the care system is seeing increasing numbers of children coming into care and increasing levels of instability particularly for older children across a range of measures. The needs of these children are complex and require a high level of expertise and resources to address them.
“The care system has been under increasingly high levels of demand while facing significant reductions in resources to address these. This reflects general government policy towards public services resulting in a move towards ‘survival mode’ for local authorities and other services. This is deeply troubling and requires an action plan of considerable urgency – with children and young people and their experiences at the centre of that plan.”
The Stability Index was launched in 2017 and focuses on the number of times children in care move home placement, school or social worker. For the first time this year, the Index published stability figures for each council.