Praise for Leeds' approach to children in care

Photo by REX/Shutterstock (9697490g) Children's Commissioner for England Anne LongfieldPhoto by REX/Shutterstock (9697490g) Children's Commissioner for England Anne Longfield
Photo by REX/Shutterstock (9697490g) Children's Commissioner for England Anne Longfield
Early intervention policies are making a 'huge difference' for young people in Leeds, the country's children's commissioner has said, as concerns are raised on a national scale over rising numbers of children in care.

Nationally, there has been a seven per cent increase in the number of looked after children in England in the two years to March, the latest figures show, with a 13 per cent increase in Yorkshire.

There have been “savage cuts” to Sure Start and intervention grants nationwide which can support children and prevent them from entering care, said MP Emma Lewell-Buck, the shadow minister for children and families.

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Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield, brought up in Otley and now representing an authoritative voice for children in care across England, has said more can be done to focus on early intervention to prevent children getting to a crisis stage.

Such an approach in Leeds, she adds, has seen some successes. Children’s social care services were this week rated ‘Outstanding’, while the numbers of young people in care has stayed relatively stable in the city while rising dramatically in some other parts of the region.

“We see it in Leeds, through its senior leadership, from the leader of the council to the chief executive, who have really decided to make children a priority,” said Ms Longfield, a former student at Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Otley, who still lives in the region.

“Everything they do, within all their work with children, is looking at how they can help best they can, intervene early, and how they can work with families. That comes through in terms of their ability to prevent children from getting into crisis. That’s not to say it’s perfect - and it’s not. But it shows that it’s possible.

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“When we ask local authorities what would make a difference and turn the tide, they say early help. Especially in the early years. And working with not just the child, but the whole family.”

The latest figures from the DfE, released in November, show there were 1,271 children classed as looked after in Leeds in March. While a small increase of two per cent on two year’s prior, that is consistent with a rise in the number of children in the city, and is fewer than it was five years ago.