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Looked-after children in Suffolk reaches five-year high as funding cuts start to bite

PUBLISHED: 10:17 13 October 2017

Suffolk has seen the second biggest rise in the number of 'looked-after children' in the region in the last two years, government figures show. Pictur:: PA

Suffolk has seen the second biggest rise in the number of 'looked-after children' in the region in the last two years, government figures show. Pictur:: PA

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Action is needed over stretched children’s services in Suffolk, it has been warned, after figures showed a five year high of youngsters now in care.

Suffolk has seen the second-biggest rise in the number of “looked-after children” in the region in the last two years, government figures show.

These are youngsters who are in the care of the local authority, such as those in foster care or waiting to be adopted.

There were 830 at the end of March this year, up by 100 in two years, fuelled by an increase in unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and a fall in adoption rates. It was the highest figure in Suffolk in the last five years.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has urged the government to plug a funding gap to help councils support families and vulnerable children.

Helen Armitage, Labour group spokesman for children’s services, said she was “gravely concerned”.

She said: “There are many reasons why children are taken into care: neglect or abuse; families unable to cope with their behaviour needs; when a victim of war becomes an unaccompanied child seeking asylum. Each story is a tragedy, but in the end it is the local authority picking up the bill.

“There is no magic bullet to resolve the issues (but) more funding is needed, more preventative programmes are needed, and more innovative thinking is needed to stop this crisis becoming an even bigger disaster for those caught in the care system.

Funding cuts have impacted and action is needed.”

The data also showed in Suffolk:

■ Seventy children were unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in 2016/17. There were 10 three years ago.

■ 18 per cent of looked after children were adopted in 2017. It was 29% three years ago.

■ 12pc of looked after children were reported missing in 2016/17.

Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s services at Suffolk County Council, said: “The increase reflects national trends.

“This is largely due to an increase in unaccompanied asylum seeking children taken as part of the national dispersal scheme and spontaneous arrivals.

“Our priority is to ensure that all vulnerable children are appropriately supported.

Our children’s services are currently rated ‘good’ by Ofsted.

“Their report highlighted areas of outstanding practice within the council’s children in care teams.”

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