Children ‘wellbeing’ data rise in Wales care figures

The number of children in Wales placed in local authority care has risen by 44% in the last decade, figures show.

The finding, in assembly government research, across a range of areas such as poverty, education and nutrition.

Children’s Commissioner for Wales Keith Towler said it showed the “wider strain and stress that families are under”.

But he said the number of children in care, 5,162, was “not necessarily a bad thing” and it showed that social services were “responding well”.

The rise is recorded in the 2011 Children and Young People’s Wellbeing Monitor for Wales.

Separate statistics on the Stats Wales website also show wide regional variations in the numbers of children taken into care.

The authors say the 44% increase of looked-after children over 10 years, to 5,162 youngsters as of 31 March 2010, is “one of the most remarkable findings” in the document.

Since 2005, the numbers of children in care has increased by 56% in Carmarthenshire, 55% in Swansea and nearly 53% in Neath Port Talbot.

In Cardiff, however, the rise is just 1.9 % and in Pembrokeshire and the Vale of Glamorgan numbers have fallen.

The monitor will be available on the assembly government website from Wednesday.

The assembly government research aims to record a wide range of data on the approximately 962,000 children and people under 25 in Wales.

Nearly one-in-three (32%) of children in Wales, around 200,000, now live in poverty, the research also found.

Almost 950 children in Wales are carers.

Fewer than one-in-three adolescents report eating fruit or vegetables daily, while less than half of older girls say they eat breakfast.

Keith Towler said: “Children and young people suffering these levels of abuse and neglect are really quite alarming.”

He added that it “really does not reflect very well on us as a society”.

But Mr Towler welcomed the inclusion for young people’s views in the monitor for the first time.

He added: “Only by listening to them about their lives will we really learn whether government policies are having the desired effect.

“Welsh government and local authorities must now show they have not only listened but also taken their views seriously.”

‘Challenges ahead’

Action for Children Wales Operations Director Barbara Street said the children’s charity was seeing a clear difference between children’s policy in Wales and that in England.

“My feeling is that if you are a vulnerable child you are much better off living in Wales than you are in England,” she said.

Deputy Children’s Minister Huw Lewis said the report showed progress in cutting infant mortality, the numbers of children killed in road accidents and a decrease in teenagers taking up smoking.

He said there were still “challenges ahead”.

He added: “There are still challenges ahead and the monitor does show that the wellbeing of children living in deprivation and poverty is not so favourable.