Wales politics

Targets to curb rising number of children in care

Adult and child holding hands
Image caption The number of children in care is expected to grow by around 470 this year

Targets are being set to cut the number of children in care but councils will not face penalties if they fall short, the Welsh Government has said.

Revealing another rise in looked after children is expected in Wales this year, minister in charge Julie Morgan said "we cannot let this go on".

Councils have agreed a set of "reduction expectations" with 16 of the 22 local authorities setting targets.

But Labour AM Lynne Neagle said she was "deeply uneasy" with the concept.

First Minister Mark Drakeford promised targets during his Welsh Labour leadership campaign last year.

Deputy Social Services Minister Julie Morgan told AMs there would be a "safety-first approach" and "nothing overrides the need to protect children from abuse or neglect".

In March 2018, 6,504 children were in care. The latest statistics will not be available until November, but that is expected to grow by around 470 this year.

It would mean there are 109 children in care for every 10,000 children in Wales. That is noticeably higher than England and Northern Ireland. Although the rate has been higher in Scotland since the mid-2000s, it has been falling in recent years while Wales continues to rise.

Image caption Julie Morgan said there would be a "safety-first approach"

There has been a 34% increase in 15 years "and we just cannot let this go on and we can't let it go on for the sake for the children," Mrs Morgan said.

Ms Neagle, who chairs the assembly's Children, Young People and Education Committee, said: "I am deeply uneasy with the idea of setting targets.

"There is no simple explanation. There is unlikely to be a simple answer.

"I don't think there's a single head of children's service in the country who gets up in the morning and thinks let's bring more children into care."

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