Joanne Stoddart

Seeing the bigger picture: a look at UK-wide data on children in care

How can UK-wide data on the children in care population be used by social care professionals?

How can UK-wide data on the children in care population be used by social care professionals? 

Blue Cabin’s local authority specialist, Joanne Stoddart, shares some key themes from her research into UK data, and how they can be used by local authorities and other organisations. 

Seeing the bigger picture

The vast majority of social care professionals will already be aware of the overall picture of the child in care population. However, as a busy social care professional myself, I can tend to just focus on the here and now, and at times I have to remind myself to look up and around to see the bigger picture.

Understanding the bigger picture enables practitioners to analyse how their local authority is performing, and undertake deep dives if data or findings differ greatly to other areas.

Understanding differences then naturally leads on to starting conversations to explore why, and more importantly, how this may be impacting on children and their families.

Rising numbers of children in care

It will come as no surprise to social care professionals that the overall children in care population for England is at its highest, with the significant number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) requiring support and care contributing to this increase.

Conversely, the number of children being placed for adoption in England has decreased. The majority of children in care in England are living in foster placements including kinship/connected care arrangements.

North East England has the highest rate of children in care

It may be of more interest to social care professionals to note that the North East of England has the highest rate of children in care in comparison to other areas across the country.

And when looking at the North East region, there is a clear difference between the north of the region in comparison with the south of the region, with the south having a higher rate of children in care.

Children in the North East are also more likely to have a plan of adoption than elsewhere in England.

Finally, it’s relevant to note that the North East region has the second highest rate of child poverty in England, with Middlesbrough having the highest within the region.

Useful data for social care practitioners

As a local authority practitioner I have been acutely aware of the increasing child in care population across both the country and specifically in the North East region, and also of the poverty rates across the country.

But even so, undertaking research to provide an overview of any area within children’s social care is important for social care professionals. It enables local authorities to understand how they are performing in comparison to others, learn from others and provide advice and support to others as appropriate.

In understanding the data and themes emerging, it supports future sufficiency planning. For example, understanding the characteristics of the child in care population will direct how to target the recruitment of specific foster carers for older children, UASC, children with special educational needs and so on.

It also supports the future commissioning strategy to ensure there are sufficient children’s providers available to meet the needs of children in care going forward.

Hear from care-experienced children and young people

In this episode of the Creative Life Story Work podcast we spoke to members of The Studio of the Fostered Heroes. The group, who are all members of Redcar & Cleveland’s Children in Care Council, made a short film to share their feelings about being in care.

Listen to the episode>>

About Joanne Stoddart

Joanne Stoddart is a Local Authority Specialist working with both Blue Cabin, she also holds a role in a regional adoption agency. She is an experienced children’s social worker and manager, with almost 25 years’ experience working in Local Authorities. She has held various roles from children’s social worker to head of service, all within statutory children’s services, with significant direct experience of working with care-experienced children and young people. Joanne has been involved in Blue Cabin’s Creative Life Story Work project over the past three years, and has worked closely and collaboratively with Blue Cabin throughout.