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What the adoption league tables show

Local councillors are "corporate parents" of their authority's "Looked After Children." So every councillor should take a look at the new performance tables to see how they are doing. Most of the media interest has been in the "Adoption 3" table that shows the percentage of children actually placed for adoption within 12 months of the decision being made to place them. The worst performing council on this measure was Hackney followed by Brent, Nottinghamshire, Derby and East Riding of Yorkshire.

But the other tables also should be given some attention. The "Adoption 1" table shows much better news for Derby. This measures the proportion of children who cease to be "Looked After" because they were adopted (as opposed to spending their entire childhood in the care system and falling off the figures due to reaching their 18th birthday.) Derby is top at 26%. Bottom are Croydon on 2% followed by Solihull on 3% and Bracknell Forest, Central Bedfordshire, Merton and Haringey all on 5%.

Also the tables measure how well the "Looked After" children are being looked after. Being moved around from one foster placement to another is very damaging. So what proportion were with three or more placments a year? (The "Placements 1" table.) Doncaster is worst on 17%. Plymouth, Hampshire, Merton and Brent are all on 16%.

On other tables we see that 82% of Looked After children in Bracknell Forest are at schools "below the floor targets for Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 4." We see that in Solihull only 5% of Looked After Children get five or more good GCSEs. Also we see that many councils had 0% of 19-year-olds who had been Looked After Children in higher education.

I would find two more tables helpful. One is the proportion of Looked After Children in residential Children's Homes rather than placed with foster carers.

Secondly (and more difficult) a contextual measure of the number of Looked After Children as a proportion of all children in the council area. Children going into care is partly a measure of deprivation. It tends to be the single mother heroin addict in a council flat - rather than the affluent family in  terraced house who can aford a nanny. So for my council, of Hammersmith and Fulham, it is understandable that the number of LAC children per 10,000 of the child population is higher than in Richmond-Upon-Thames or Harrow. We have less excuse for doing worse than Wandsworth, which is a borough with an even higher proportion of social housing than we have.


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