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Council scrutiny committee ‘not alarmed’ over numbers of children entering care

JUST over one young person a day was added to the child protection register in Swansea in June on average, but several others were removed from it.

This churn was not significantly different from the previous month and did not alarm members of a Swansea Council scrutiny panel, who heard various facts and figures about child and family services at a meeting.

The child protection register had 37 additional names compared to 29 in May, partly on account of three large new sibling groups.

And 26 youngsters were taken off the register in June compared to 35 in May, leaving a net total of 231.

Nearly a quarter of this total figure had previously been on the register. The main two causes for being on it were neglect and emotional abuse.

Julie Thomas, Swansea’s head of child and family services, described the monthly report across a series of metrics as a “pretty stable picture”, with some positive results.

The number of looked-after children dropped slightly to 549, while there was a slightly more marked decrease in the 773 total who needed care and support.

But councillors also heard there was a rise in the child sexual exploitation category, from 14 to 20 children, although some might be from other areas but accommodated in private care homes in Swansea.

Ms Thomas said the council had been successful in reducing residential placements for Swansea children. The total figure is now 26.

There has been national media coverage this week about how the private sector is investing in children’s care homes, whose operations are ultimately funded by local authorities through the children they place there.

Councillor Mike Durke said he would like to see a social enterprise created to fill the gap and prevent “hedge fund managers” making a profit from public money.

Councillor Des Thomas asked if the number of children needing help varied according to the month of the year.

Ms Thomas said she expected September to be “quite busy” while July sometimes saw a “flurry of activity” – both connected to school term and holiday times.

The meeting also heard about work being carried out in child and family services following a Care Inspectorate Wales annual report.

Progress was being made in a number of areas, but the deadline for the council satisfying itself that children who are not taught in school and who need care and support were getting the required education has been put back from February this year to January 2020.

Ms Thomas said the issue had not been “cracked yet” but said January next year was a “realistic timescale.”

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