‘Looked After Child’ is a generic term introduced in the Children act 1989. This describes children and young people subject to care orders (placed into care of Local Authorities by order of a court) and children accommodated under Section 20 (voluntary) of the Children Act 1989. Looked After Children may live within foster homes, residential placements or with family members (connected carers). In Calderdale, children and young people who are in care have told us that they prefer the term children looked after (CLA), so that is the term we use locally.
Under the Children Act 1989, a child is legally defined as ‘looked after’ by a local authority if he or she:
- is provided with accommodation continuously for a period of 24 hours;
- is subject to a care order; or
- is subject to a placement order.
Most children become looked after as a result of abuse and neglect. Although they have many of the same health issues as their peers, the extent of these is often greater because of their past experiences. For example, almost half of children in care have a diagnosable mental health disorder and two-thirds have special educational needs. Delays in identifying and meeting their emotional wellbeing and mental health needs can have far reaching effects on all aspects of their lives, including their chances of reaching their potential and leading happy and healthy lives as adults (Department of Health and Department for Education, 2016).
CLA are more likely to go missing than children and young people who are not in a care setting. This can be both an indicator of need (eg a young people going missing from care because they are in distress in their care setting) and a cause of further risk (eg young people being more likely to be at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) when out at night, without carers).
The Department for Education publish annual statistics on the characteristics of CLA, both at national and local authority Level. These provide detailed information on trends and the current picture in terms of demographics, health, and the numbers of unaccompanied asylum seekers are who are looked after. These figures are available at Looked after children statistics .
Designated Children looked after nurse, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS foundation trust (CHFT);
Commissioning team, Calderdale Council;
Team manager, Calderdale therapeutic services, Calderdale Council.
Edited by Naomi Marquis, Public Health Intelligence Officer, Public Health, Calderdale Council.