For anyone interested in what’s going on with some of the most vulnerable children in our society will find the documents here very valuable.
As you’ll expect I’ll focus on what they tell us about Lewisham, but there are figures for all relevant local councils.
First up are the raw figures on the numbers who are in care. For Lewisham there are fewer children being looked after; from 615 in 2004 to 485 in 2006. I always took the view that (with some obvious provisos) having fewer children in care was a good result; especially for the children where outcomes for those in care remain poor.
That’s particularly true of children who are moved about a lot, which is why the government measure the number of placements in a year. Lewisham’s figures for the last three years look to be about the same as most of our inner London neighbours but there isn’t a consistent trend as they go 75 (2004), 85 (2005), and 60 (2006).
The other side of that coin is trying to create long term placements measured here by the number of foster placements that are at least 2 years. Here Lewisham doesn’t do well having the lowest percentages in inner London 41% (2004), 33% (2005), 41% (2006). The percentage of children in the same placement for at least two years or placed for adoption is also lower than our neighbours.
Another of my interests as a councillor was where the council were placing children. I argued that Lewisham should be trying to reduce the numbers placed outside the borough as I hoped this would improve the oversight of their cases by social workers and allow the council to improve their corporate parenting. Lewisham’s figures aren’t bad, 185 inside the borough (highest percentage in inner London), a further 155 within 20 miles and only 85 further than 20 miles away. There are 50 children where apparently they don’t know how far they are away, which the table explains could be “due to ‘Home’ address being unknown or unavailable, which could occur with unaccompanied asylum seeking children, or children missing from main placement”.
Not every child that comes into care stays in care, in fact most don’t, but where they do the government is interested in how many are in employment, education or training. Lewisham has a slightly higher percentage of those over 16 in employment, education or training than the national picture but lower than the London average.
These figures tell a bit of the story about children in care in Lewisham, but it isn’t the whole thing. It doesn’t tell us about how children in care are doing in school and college or what their health is like. Nor does it doesn’t tell us how much time their social workers have spent with them over the year.