§ 16. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many children came into the care of local authorities for the three most recent years for which figures are available; and what is the proportion in each year coming into care because of homelessness, lack of day care facilities, poverty, failure of social work, and other reasons.
§ Mr. Meacher
The number of children who came into the care of local authorities in England and Wales for the year ending 31st March 1974 was 52,700; for 1973, 53,600; and 1972, 53,400. About 5 per cent. of the children come into care each year because of homelessness. Lack of day care facilities, poverty and failure of social work cannot be distinguished as reasons for children coming into care.
§ Mr. Bennett
Does my hon. Friend agree that far more information regarding the reason for children going into care is needed, and that still far too many children go into care unnecessarily?
§ Mr. Meacher
A breakdown of the reasons for children going into care is available, but it does not happen to meet the specific criteria to which my hon. Friend has referred. As regards the question of the number of children going into care, local authorities are bound under Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1963 to provide preventive and supportive services to prevent that happening. Last year local authorities were spending £2½ million with that end in view. Obviously we would like to do more to achieve this end, but there is a limit on resources.
§ Mr. Jessel
Do not the falling birth rate, the shortage of children for adoption and the many abortions currently carried out suggest that the need for the provision of residential care for children by local authorities in future may not be as great as it was in the past?