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Children who are looked after

Information for organisations who are providing, or are planning to provide services for children and young people who are looked after by the council.

Where are we now?

  • Number of children who are looked after

For many years, demand for Children’s Social Care and Early Help services has been increasing across the country. 60% of (152) local authorities have been experiencing an increased rate of children in care, which is growing disproportionately with the rate of children in the general population.

National studies have evidenced the relationship between poverty and children coming into care. Children in England are eleven times more likely to be in care in the 10% most deprived communities than in the 10% least deprived. Leicester is one of the 20% most deprived districts/unitary authorities in England and about 23% (17,725) of children live in low- income families (Public Health England 2019), meaning that young people have a higher likelihood of entering care.

In response to the pressures caused by increasing demand for children’s social care and early help services, we have invested in developing the workforce and supporting a range of programmes which divert children from care and focus on the strengths in the family and community to support children who are vulnerable, disadvantaged or in need of help and protection. These include a range of evidence-based intervention programmes to reduce the number of children having to become looked after. There has also been a sustained focus on securing permanence for children and young people in care in a timely manner.  Consequently, Leicester has seen fall in the number and rates of children who are looked after.

As at 31 March 2021, there were 626 children and young people looked after by the council.

As at 31 March 2021, there were 626 children and young people looked after by the council.
  • Commissioning focus: finding homes for children who are looked after

We have developed our Placement sufficiency strategy 2020-2023 (PDF) which provides further information on the homes and support we provide and commission.

Our placement sufficiency aims are to:
  • provide an increased range of homes for our children and young people that meet their needs and give them with a safe place to live and thrive;
  • provide stability for our children and young people by providing timely options to achieve permanence and a safe and secure place to live;
  • develop the recruitment and retention of our own foster carers and increase their capacity to meet the needs of the children they care for;
  • review and to reduce our use of out of area residential homes and foster care placements; and
  • strengthen our commissioning practices to reduce costs and improve quality of provision and support matching of children to provision through building better relationships with our market providers.

68% of our children and young people live in foster families , 12% live in residential children’s homes, 6% live in semi-independent accommodation with support, and the remaining 14% in other placements or arrangements (such as with adopters, residential schools and in NHS provision). This follows previous years’ trends.

Two thirds of our children living in foster care households are placed locally with in-house foster carers. A third are placed with Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) foster carers or with foster carers from other councils or voluntary agencies. On average, this means that we commission between 120-130 foster placements from Independent Fostering Agencies at any time.

We have five residential children’s homes that we run in the city, offering a total of 30 places when at full capacity. However, for around 30-40 young people each year, we seek residential homes from the private and voluntary market.  This can be for a variety of reasons including a need for a home outside of the city, the risk that the young person may pose to other young people they are living with and / or the complexity of the young person’s needs.

Where are we going?

The number of children who are looked after in Leicester is expected to continue to remain stable over the coming years, below national trends, as we remain focused on building on the successes of our Early Help and Prevention services, and securing permanence in a timely manner for children and young people who are in care.

Wherever possible, we will try to find local foster families for our children and young people in care. There continues to be a need for more local foster families who can care for children and young people with complex needs and/or challenging behaviour, larger sibling groups and young people aged 10-16.

We will continue to need residential children’s homes, and whilst we are committed to continue to develop our own homes, we know that this will not meet demand especially where bespoke specialist support is required (this may include support around child exploitation, gangs and relationships).

We continue to work closely with other local authorities in the region, and with partners such as health, to better understand emerging needs and to work collectively to commission services.

What does this mean for providers?

We will continue to use independent fostering arrangements for children and young people where we are unable to meet this need in-house. This is specifically in relation to carers able to care for larger sibling groups, young children with complex needs, teenagers and those who are able to offer long-term care.

We will continue to use private residential care where we are unable to meet this need in-house, particularly specialist homes that can support young people on a therapeutic basis.

We are committed to exploring smarter ways of commissioning to better understand needs and support development of services which meet these needs; this includes working more closely with other local authorities, partner agencies, voluntary and private providers. We hope to building better relationships with our market providers and are committed to our principles of engagement and will consult with young people, families, staff and providers to understand their needs and to support the development of our priorities and plans.

Other useful information for providers

Contact Nagle, Lead Commissioner, Children’s Services