One in 52 Blackpool children in care as poverty soars in north of England

Estimated read time 3 min read

One in every 52 children in Blackpool are in care compared with one in 140 across England, leading to calls for more to be done to urgently tackle the widening north-south divide, brought on by “decades of underinvestment”.

Nine in every thousand children are in care in the north, compared with six in the rest of England, according to a report by Health Equity North.

A total of £25bn of public money would have been saved between 2019 and 2023 if the north had the same care entry rates as the south, the report’s authors said.

Child poverty was the main factor in the disproportionate figures, with the north-east having the highest overall care rates, followed by the north-west, West Midlands and then Yorkshire and the Humber.

Blackpool was followed by Hartlepool, where the highest rate of children in care is one in 63.

The review of existing research, compiled for the child of the north all-party parliamentary group, found a 27% increase in the number of children’s homes between 2020 and 2023 disproportionately affected the north of England.

The north has 1,176 children’s homes – more than 40% of the children’s homes in England – with just 1,704 in the rest of England.

There were more than 83,000 children in care in England in 2023, with the report warning the risk of that number rising was high as health inequalities continued to widen and more and more families were falling into poverty, particularly in the north.

The rise in child poverty between 2015 and 2020 led to more than 10,000 additional children entering care – equivalent to one in 12 care entries over the period.

Dr Davara Bennett, the lead author of the report and head of public health, policy and systems at the University of Liverpool, said: “Our report has exposed the deeply rooted social inequalities reflected in, and exacerbated by, the child welfare system. These need to be tackled head-on by policymakers.”

Underinvestment has left councils “trapped in a cycle” of spending billions on looking after children in care at the expense of providing support for families in need, she said.

She added: “The evidence shows the damage caused by cuts to prevention and failure to address the very real problem of child poverty in the north.

“There are a number of policies that, if implemented, could help reduce the number of children entering care and improve the care and support children and families receive when in need. We urge government to hear our calls for action and commit to addressing them as a priority.”

Emma Lewell-Buck, the MP for South Shields and co-chair of the child of the north APPG, said: “As a former social worker, I have experienced first-hand the immense pressure placed on children’s services in the north. When children and families aren’t given the right support the consequences and damage done can last a lifetime. In my region specifically, shameful levels of poverty coupled with underinvestment has led to dramatically disproportionate rises in the number of children in care, compared with the south.

“Excellent social work happens every single day, yet this report highlights how valuable opportunities to improve social care for both children, families and those who work with them are being ignored. Our children deserve better.”


You May Also Like

More From Author