Looked After Children the Silent Crisis Update

65% of vulnerable children are being cared for in areas where council services are failing them.

The number of children in care getting unacceptable treatment has risen since the SMF first published “The Silent Crisis” report a year ago. This report analysed inspection data from Ofsted, which assesses local councils’ services for children in need of help and protection, looked-after children and care leavers. One year on, our updated analysis reveals that 48,723- 65% of all looked after children- are looked after in local authorities that are deemed to be falling short of a good standard. This number has risen considerably since our last update one year ago, when the number was 47,085.

Of those children, 11,606 are receiving care services judged as “inadequate”- the worst possible grade. Additionally, this analysis showed that 62.5% of local authorities in England are providing services for these children which either “require improvement” or are simply “inadequate”.

A growing number of children are being looked after in England. In the last year alone, the number of looked-after children in care rose by 3.8% to reach 75,420 children in 2018. The number of looked after children per 10,000 in England has risen from 60 in 2016 to 64 children in 2018.

Better care is especially important because being in care is strongly associated with lifelong social and economic problems. Children in care account for around 1% of all children, but looked after children (LAC) and care-leavers make up much higher proportions of groups experiencing disadvantage:

  • 42% of children in young offender institutions were previously in care
  • Only 17.5% of pupils who were looked after children received A*-C in both English and Mathematics GCSE. This is compared to 60% of non- looked after children.
  • Nearly 40% of care leavers in England aged 19-21 are not in education, employment or training (NEET). This remains much higher than the NEET rate amongst all 16-24 year olds n England, which is just 11.1%
  • Almost 25% of the adult prison population has previously been in care, and children who have been in care reoffend at roughly twice the rate of children who have never been looked after.

This report puts forward several policy recommendations to address the issues raised and to better understand the issue, including:

  • Establishing a “Charter for Looked-After Children” and committing to raising the standards of care we expect and closing the gap in outcomes between children with experience of care and their peers.
  • A public monitoring framework across the data held by all government departments, Local Authorities and wider service providers should be developed to monitor the performance of Local Authority service providers and for holding local and central government accountable in delivering it and to hold local and central government accountable in delivering it.
  • More needs to be done to improve available data, and to make it easier to navigate and ensure that is it effectively joined up and shared between departments and Local Authorities.

We have updated our interactive dashboard to allow MPs and others to see instantly how services in their area are performing.  It can be found at

Download The Report: PDF

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