Number of children in care jumps almost 40% in four years

There are now over 550 children in care in the Western Trust. (File pic)
There are now over 550 children in care in the Western Trust. (File pic)

The number of children in care has shot up by 38% over the past four years, the Western Trust confirmed yesterday.

The Trust said that by the start of October 2015 there were a total of 552 children and young people in the care of the Western Trust.

A Trust spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that figures marked an all-time high in the number of children in care.

A major overhaul of services relating to ‘Looked After’ children is now under way as the numbers continue to rise.

The plans were touched upon during a presentation of a wider reform programme being implemented by the Western Health and Social Care Trust during the January meeting of Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Health and Community Committee.

Western Trust bosses warned 16 months ago that pressure was mounting on its Children and Family services, with the Trust only being allocated funding for 400 looked after children for the year to the end of March 2015, despite having by then over 500 such children in its care.

During the presentation to the council, Teresa Molloy, Director of Performance and Service Improvement with the Western Health and Social Care Trust said this reform programme was identified as a priority for the Trust taking account of the “significant growth in the number of children we look after.”

The Trust is also planning to “repatriate” children with complex needs who have been sent abroad for care - some of them for years at a time.

The ‘Journal’ revealed last October that children as young as nine with complex and mental health needs from the Western Trust area have had to be relocated outside of Northern Ireland because there is no facility here to treat them. In some cases local children have spent around 900 days (around two and half years) in placements in England or the Republic of Ireland.