Finding loving homes for children is one of the most important jobs that councils do.
Finding loving homes for children is one of the most important jobs that councils do, and local authorities have been central to recent improvements in the timeliness and availability of adoptive placements for children. Many councils have been working together closely to improve the range of placements available to children, and provisions in the Education and Adoption Bill will now place these collaborative arrangements for adoption on a statutory footing.
Adoption may provide a loving and stable home for many children and young people, but it will not be the right option for every child. The majority of looked-after children are cared for through a fostering placement, and a significant proportion of looked-after children will return to their families from care (34 per cent of care leavers in March 2015).
Councils seek to support children to continue to live with their families where possible through family-based support and early intervention. Since 2008, the number of children on child protection plans has increased by 60 per cent, compared to an increase of 17 per cent in the number of children in care.
Rapidly increasing need and constrained funding is placing significant pressure on children's social care services. With a statutory duty to protect every child in need, councils have rightly committed to providing as much resource as possible to safeguarding, but this commitment leaves some challenging choices elsewhere. This is particularly the case for early intervention services, which would reduce the need for crisis interventions. Government funding for early intervention services was reduced by 48 per cent during the last Parliament.
We urgently need to reform how funding is allocated across local services to encourage investment in early intervention that shifts the balance from crisis spending towards prevention. All too often the savings from investment by one agency are recouped by another, resulting in disincentives to invest in early intervention.