The rising number of children going into care is putting ‘a lot of pressure’ onto the social care sector.
That is the message from Hampshire’s social care bosses as hundreds more children find themselves entering the care system.
Currently there are 1,728 children in care across Hampshire, up 39 per cent from two years ago.
Many of these new children come from homes in the UK, while others are unaccompanied asylum seekers from the likes of Eritrea, Syria and Afghanistan.
Hannah Leat, service development manager at Hampshire County Council, said: “There has been an increase in the past couple of years.
“We’re focusing on setting things up so children aren’t in care until they’re 18 if they don’t need to be, like if they can return to a family member or go to a foster parent.
“We currently have 437 children in this position where they could be going elsewhere soon.”
A total of 115 children are unaccompanied asylum seekers, up from 56 the previous year.
These asylum seekers are handed out to local authorities by the Home Office.
Stuart Ashley, assistant director for children and families at Hampshire County Council, said: “If we can support children exiting care then we should do so – if you speak to any child they will tell you that they just want to be like every other child, and we should do everything we can to make that happen.
“On the topic of unaccompanied children, this is a national problem and we’ve been saying for a while now that the government needs to do something about it.
“The same goes for the significant national shortage of care workers, it’s putting a lot of pressure on the staff who are already working hard in the sector.”
A number of lessons have also been learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Ms Leat’s report to the county council.
One of those lessons was the importance of virtually working with children and young people, engaging them in different activities.
For example, during the lockdowns Ben Donnelly, a personal advisor for the south west care leaver’s team, hosted gaming sessions where he and other youngsters would play the video game Minecraft together over the internet.
Creating music videos and performing in talent shows also proved hugely popular, the report claimed, and these are likely to be continued in the future.