The number of children in care in Hammersmith and Fulham (“Looked After Children”) has today fallen to 186.
That is still far to high. Many – I suspect most – of those children could and should be placed in permanent loving homes. There is still far too much in the way of bureaucratic obstacles and politically correct prejudice towards adoption. I became all too well aware of this when I was on the Council’s Adoption panel.
Far too often does the council agree to “Supervision Orders” where a child is returned to a birth parent. The child then is at high risk of further abuse and/or neglect and is then returned to the care system (with the added disruption of being placed with a different foster carer.) It is a scandal which happens routinely both locally and nationally. That doesn’t stop it being a scandal.
The number of children in care in ratio to the total number of children remains much higher than Wandsworth. In April it was 60 per 10,000. While in Wandsworth it was 36 per 10,000. I reckon Wandsworth the figure is much too high. But we should still find out how they are managing better than we are.
We could also do better even for those children who can’t be adopted. Hammersmith and Fulham Council refuses to offer the chance of boarding school placements to children in care despite the evidence that this can deliver good outcomes and reduce cost.
The Government says:
“Where a looked-after child would benefit from attending a boarding school, either in the state or independent sector, VSHs and social workers should be proactive in considering this option.”
Yet not a single placement has been made from our borough. Nothing has been done to invite children in care – or their foster carers – to consider this option or to enable it to be taken. Not for a single child.
But let’s also consider the good news.
In 2006, when I was first elected a councillor, there were 394 children in care. So that number has halved.
It has also continued to fall since April this year – when it was 204. National efforts to remove barriers to adoption will have helped. So will the Troubled Families programme so that fewer children need to go into care in the first place. Locally the Tri-borough arrangements for Children’s Services have improved efficiency.
So there has been good progress.