Child protection plans
At the end of March 2017 Herefordshire was supporting 115 children subject to a child protection plan (CPP). The local rate of children with a child protection plan in place was 31.9 per 10,000 children, statistically significantly lower than the rates for the West Midlands region (45.3 per 10,000), England (43.3 per 10,000), and our statistical neighbours (37.9 per 10,000).
This reflected a statistically significant decrease in the local rate of children with protection plans (from 63.2 per 10,000 children the year before), with 113 (49.3%) fewer children being subject to a child protection plan between the two time points. Local performance analysis indicates that a risk adverse response was likely to be contributing to the previously high rates of children subject to a child protection plan. In response, during 2016, a more rigorous approach was taken to applying the thresholds for implementing child protection plans, which likely contributed to the observed fall.
Figure 1: Rate of children with a child protection plan in place in Herefordshire, the West Midlands region and England as of the 31st of March, 2013-2017.
Sources: Characteristics of children in need 2012 to 2013 through to 2016 to 2017, DfE, 2/11/17 .
Since the 31st of March 2017, there has been a steady rise in the number of children subject to a CPP in Herefordshire. There was a real spike in numbers towards the end of 2017, resulting in a high of 236 children on a CPP at the end of January 2018. The numbers had reduced to 201 at the end of March 2018, giving a rate of 56 per 10,000 children.
Looked after children (LAC)
At the end of March 2018 there were 313 looked after children (LAC) in Herefordshire. This is an increase from the previous year, and contributes to a six year upward trend in the number of LAC.
Figure 2: Number of looked after children in Herefordshire as of 31st March, 2013 to 2018.
Sources: Children looked after in England including adoption: 2016 to 2017, DfE, September 2017, Herefordshire Council internal performance data, March 2018.
In 2017, Herefordshire’s rate of LAC was 84 per 10,000 children aged under 18; statistically significantly higher than the average rate for the five most similar local authorities, and the England rate. Local performance analysis indicates that the reason for a high LAC population is partly due to a ‘risk averse’ response, with action being taken to ensure that need thresholds are applied appropriately. It is worth highlighting that fewer children started to be looked after in 2016/17 than in the previous five years; with the increased number and rate of LAC being explained by fewer children ceasing to be looked after. This finding is not surprising, as once a child comes under local authority care; it is often difficult to reunite them with their families. Therefore, it is expected that the local rate of LAC will gradually decrease over time; with the legacy of high LAC numbers taking some years to reduce as those currently under local authority care grow up.
Figure 3: Rate of looked after children in Herefordshire, England and a Comparator Group comprised of the five most similar local authorities as of the 31st of March, 2013 to 2017.