Poverty has driven 10,000 children into care, report says

Anti-poverty policies are key to reducing the number of children being taking into care in England.

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Rising child poverty rates are leading to an increase in children entering care in England, according to a new Liverpool-led study published in The Lancet Public Health.

In comparison to their peers, children in foster care have worse health outcomes throughout their lives. In England, the sharp increase in their number over the last decade has corresponded with increased child poverty, which is a major risk factor for children entering care.

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Over a five-year period, researchers from the University of Liverpool and colleagues from the University of Huddersfield evaluated data from 147 local councils (2015-2020).

The researchers calculated the contribution of changing child poverty rates to changing care entry rates within areas by combining data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on the number of children living in low-income families with data from the Department for Education on rates of children entering care.

A one percentage point rise in child poverty was related with 5 more children entering care per 100,000 between 2015 and 2020.

The researchers projected that 8.1 percent of care entrants were connected to increased child poverty, which equates to over 10,000 extra children. The cost to local government in the short term is anticipated to be £1.4 billion.

Lead author Davara Bennett said: “This study offers evidence that rising child poverty is a major preventable driver of the increase in children being removed from the family home and taken into local authority care – one of the most drastic State interventions into families’ lives.

“In England, the double burden has fallen disproportionately on the North East and parts of the North West.

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“National anti-poverty policies are key to safely tackling adverse trends in care entry. This would, in turn, relieve the unsustainable pressure on local authority budgets increasingly devoted to costly placements for children in care at the expense of preventative children’s services.”

Senior author Professor David Taylor-Robinson said: “This study shows that rising child poverty is putting unnecessary stresses and strains on families, increasing the risk of children being abused or neglected and ending up in the care system.

“This is all the more shocking since child poverty is preventable in a rich country like the UK.”

The study was funded by National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) School for Public health Research (SPHR) and NIHR Public Health Policy research Unit (PHPRU).

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