More children in Hertfordshire are being 'looked after' by children's services than for 'many years', councillors told

The data was highlighted to councillors at the county council's children, young people and families cabinet

The number of ‘looked after’ children in Hertfordshire is now higher than it has been for ‘many years’, councillors have been told.

Latest available data shows that in December (2020) there were 1004 ‘looked after’ children in the county. A child who has been in the care of their local authority for more than 24 hours is known as a looked after child. Looked after children are also often referred to as children in care, a term which many children and young people prefer.

That’s 48 more than the 956 recorded 12 months earlier, in December 2019.

Hertfordshire County Council offices

And at a meeting of the county council’s children, young people and families cabinet panel on Monday, March 15, senior performance improvement manager for children’s services Paul Dryden it was ‘the highest number we have had for many years’.

Mr Dryden said the upward trend reflected ‘slightly more’ children entering care than in previous years – and fewer leaving care.

He acknowledged that delays in court proceedings had led to fewer children being adopted or granted special guardianship orders.

And he suggested social distancing during the Covid pandemic had also impacted on work to support children and adolescents to return to their own families.

He told councillors that work was ongoing to look at how the numbers of children in care – particularly those children where there was a plan to return home prior to Covid – could be reduced.

According to the data, 94 of the 1004 ‘looked after’ children recorded in December 2020 were ‘unaccompanied asylum seeking children’ (UASC).

The data also shows that the number of local authorities receiving Hertfordshire’s ‘looked after’ children has increased, from 68 in December 2019 to 73 in December 2020.