Category of Need
Figure 1 shows the category of need of children open at the year end.
Note: A high percentage of missing need codes have been removed from some of the data in Figure 1. These are listed in Table 1.
Figure 1 – Category of need
Table 1 – Missing codes removed from category of need chart
Table 1 shows the percentage of children for whom need codes were missing in the original data. These have been removed from Figure 1 for clarity, but this means any apparent changes in need code over time need to be interpreted with caution.
The process of determining which category of need, or which CP Plan category, should apply to each child is quite arbitrary. There is considerable overlap between the various categories, for instance neglect and emotional harm. Parental illness/disability includes addictions, but clearly this will also have elements of neglect, possibly emotional harm or physical harm. There is anecdotal evidence that the use of various categories of need changes dramatically for a short period after a particular training/awareness course. Thus any changes in categories over time are more likely to be due to data entry rather than actual changes in the way children are being treated.
CIN – There is evidence of improvement in data quality, as the proportion of other and missing categories has decreased. However any accompanying change in other categories could have been due to previous under-recording.
CPP – The reduction in other and missing is even more dramatic than CIN. CPP cases also have a CP Plan category. These have been fairly constant over time.
LAC – Data for LAC is far more complete, as there are no missing values, and reasonably low use of the other category. There are no clear changes over the three years.
Absent parenting is the category used to record unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC). Bristol is known to report a lower level of these than other authorities. Among core cities 5% of LAC were UASC in 2009[i]. In Bristol the figure was 0.8%. This represents a potential loss of income for the city, as there is a Government grant available to assist with these children, which Bristol is under-claiming.
Family Situation (CPP only)
Figure 2 shows the family situation, as recorded at the time of the CP Conference, for all children with a CPP at the end of the year. There has been a marked increase in domestic violence situations recorded over the past three years. Both absolute numbers and proportions have roughly doubled. About a third of children are recorded as having family situations related to parental alcohol and drug use.
Figure 2 – Family situation at time of initial CP Conference
Duration (LAC & CPP)
There is no evidence of any change in the length of time a child has been looked after or has a CP Plan.
Placement Type (LAC only)
Figure 3 shows the type of placement of Looked After Children open at the end of each quarter.
Figure 3 – LAC Placement type
The steady decline in placed with parents is most likely due to an improvement in data entry, as this option has been over-used in the past.
There has been a steady increase in the use of private foster carers, which are significantly more expensive than in-house carers. The latter have also increased slightly.
The vast majority of respite-only LAC are placed with in-house foster carers or in-house residential placements, about equal numbers of each.
Legal Status (LAC only)
Each LAC is subject to a legal status. These have not shown any significant changes over the past three years. The most common are:-
- Section 20 – Where the child is accommodated with the agreement of the parent/guardian, who retains parental responsibility. 25 ‑ 30% of all LAC have this status. Among children newly coming into care, 50 ‑ 60% have this status.
- Interim Care Order – This places the child in the care of the local authority on an interim basis whilst the family is assessed and until the court can make a final decision. It gives the local authority parental responsibility, shared with the parents. 15 ‑ 20% of all LAC have this status. Among children newly coming into care, 20 ‑ 30% have this status. The first time an Interim Care Order is made it can last for 8 weeks and it can be renewed after that for up to 28 days at a time. This process is usually fairly routine, unless significant changes have occurred.
- Care Order – This places the child under the care of the local authority, who then shares parental responsibility for the child with the parents, and will make most of the important decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as where they live and how they are educated. A Care Order usually lasts until the child is 18 or is adopted. They may be rescinded by the court, but this is rare. 40 ‑ 50% of LAC have this status.
- Placement Order – The court has agreed that adoption is in the best interest of the child, who remains Looked After until such time as suitable adoptive parents can be found, and the process of adoption completed.
- Other legal statuses include Protected under Police Powers, Emergency Protection Order, On Remand / In Custody, Short Breaks (“Respite-Only”).
As expected, those wards with higher levels of deprivation show higher numbers of CIN, CPP & LAC. In particular Filwood, Lawrence Hill, Southmead and Hartcliffe all have over 150 children allocated to social services on 31st Mar 2010.
In general, numbers of children with home or LAC placement addresses in each ward are too small to draw any firm conclusions about changes over time. Numbers may show a significant change, but this could be due to random circumstances, such as two or three particular families moving into the area, rather than an overall change that requires an area-wide response from social services. Cabot seems to show a definite decline in numbers over the years. This is an area that has seen a lot of new development, including demolition of blocks of flats, and also has a very low population of under 18 year olds. [Map to follow].
Around 200 CIN and a very small number of CPP have home addresses outside of the city. The number of LAC with home address outside the city has fallen by half from about 100. There are various possible reasons for these. In some cases, address recording on PARIS is poor, and placement addresses have become confused with home addresses. Some children have moved during the service, and are still open to Bristol. Homeless and unaccompanied asylum seeking children may be recorded under their last known address. Often parents of children in the Children’s Hospital may receive a service and financial assistance from the Hospital Liaison Service, even though they live outside the city.
LAC placement location numbers are too small to show any trends in individual wards.
LAC entering and leaving care by quarter
Figure 4 – No of LAC starting and ending care each quarter
Figure 4 shows the number of children starting and ending care each quarter.
There is no clear explanation for the lower number of children starting care in 2008 Q2, except possibly that this coincided with the reorganisation of the childcare teams. The low figures for 2009 Q4 will be due to late data entry on PARIS.
There are no clear changes in demographic details over time for these children.
Figure 5 – Length of time in care for care leavers
Among children leaving care in 2009-10, 40% had been in care for less than 6 months; 13% for over 5 years (Figure 5). Year-end figures suggest an increasing proportion of children are leaving care at the end of an Interim Care Order (ICO), but there is more variation among the figures for individual quarters. For those children with a full Care Order, the vast majority leave care because they have reached their 18th birthday, at which time the Care Order expires. Those who leave with an ICO have mostly been in care for 6m to 2yr. (See here for details of LAC legal statuses.)
Around 60% of care starters are placed with in-house foster carers. The use of independent carers, which are much more expensive, has increased from 7% to 16% over three years.
[i] DCSF: Children Looked After in England (including adoption and care leavers) year ending 31 March 2009.