This headline is over hyped but it does point to the ongoing and debilitating challenges facing local government, exacerbated in rural councils by sparsity, of providing social care for young people. It tells us:

In the latest sign of the cash crisis that continues to plague local authorities, the research suggests there has been an increase in the number of children in councils whose services are classed as either inadequate or requiring improvement.

The findings, in a study by the Social Market Foundation thinktank, were condemned by Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, who said people would be shocked by the figures.

The SMF said it was “shameful” that 48,723 children were currently being looked after in local authorities whose services are deemed to be falling short.

In 2018, there were 47,085 “looked-after children” in such councils.

However, council leaders said it was unfair to suggest councils whose services require improvement were failing.

Longfield said: “The government has to put this right. These most vulnerable kids have had the toughest start in life and rely on the state for nearly every aspect of their life.

“We might imagine from the news that potholes, street lights and bin collections are what councils are for, but looking after these vulnerable children properly is one of their most important roles, and government must make sure councils make it the best experience they possibly can, part of which is funding them properly to do so. At the moment they aren’t, and too often it isn’t.”

The SMF is calling on ministers to establish a “charter for looked-after children”, designed to raise the standards of care and close the gap in outcomes between children who have been in care and those who have not. The number of looked-after children in England has been rising for several years. In 2013, there were 68,070, and by 2018 75,420.

The SMF found that 65% of all looked-after children in England were in council areas where services needed to improve.

Its report also reveals that nearly 40% of care leavers in England aged 19-21 were out of education, employment or training. And only 17.5% of pupils in care achieved A*-C in both English and maths GCSE. This compares with almost 60% of children who were not in care. Some 42% of children in young offender institutions were in care.

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