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Looked after children: statistics briefing

Publication date March 2021

How many children are in care?

In 2018/19, there were approximately 102,000 looked after children in the UK. The total number of looked after children in the UK has increased every year since 2010. In the last five years the population of looked after children in the UK has increased by 10%. However, it is important to note that this UK-wide trend is not reflected in all four nations.

This briefing looks at what data and statistics are available about looked after children to help professionals, and the organisations they work for, make evidence-based decisions.

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Key findings from the data

  • Certain groups of children are more likely to be in care than others.
  • Abuse and neglect are the main reasons that children are taken into care.
  • Foster care is the most common placement type.
  • The most common reason for a child to leave care is to return to their family.
  • A number of looked after children experience multiple care placements in a year.
  • Children in care have below average outcomes across a range of measures, although they make better progress in some areas than children in need, a closer comparison group.

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