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New committee has first meeting as Wakefield Council takes steps to improve its children's services

Wakefield Town Hall, where the meeting was held.
Wakefield Town Hall, where the meeting was held.

Concern has been raised over figures showing that a rising number of children in care in Wakefield are being moved placements three or more times in one year.

Figures presented in a report to the authority's new Corporate Parenting Committee, which met for the first time today, show 14.85 per cent of the 532 looked after youngsters in the district experienced at least three placements in 12 months, as of May this year.

The proportion is above Wakefield Council's target of 10 per cent - and has risen from 11.5 per cent as of December last year.

Coun Margaret Holwell said the moves would impact children's schooling and make it "more difficult" for them to access further education.

"It is important they aren't disrupted too much", she said.

Dean Howson, service manager for looked after children, told the meeting: "We want to see that figure coming down to demonstrate achieving placement stability [for children]."

The figures showed the percentage of children who had been looked after for two and a half years, who had been in the same placement for at least two years, stood at 61 per cent as of May.

But the committee heard that local authorities struggled to recruit long-term foster carers.

Data in the report, which looked at the authority's children's services performance, showed just 27 per cent of looked after children had an up to date care plan.

And nearly 73 per cent had an up to date education plan, significantly less than the 90 per cent target.

Statutory reviews for children were held on time in 74 per cent of cases, up from 63 per cent last May, but still well below the 95 per cent target.

Performance was better on measures including the percentage of care leavers not in education, employment or training - 46 per cent, above the 45 per cent target. And 100 per cent of children at risk of sexual exploitation had a risk assessment completed.

Fewer children are also being placed more than 20 miles from home - 63 in May compared to 90 in the same month last year.

Today's meeting was the first of the new committee, set up in May - two months after a damning letter from education watchdog Ofsted flagged up "significant weaknesses" in children's social care in the district and found vulnerable children were being left at risk of harm.

Members also discussed appointing champions for children in care in relation to housing, employment and training, health and education.