Wigan's social work team criticised for lack of adoptions

Councillors have criticised the social work team at Wigan Council for the lack of adoptions for children, despite improvements being made.

The council revealed it had seen 13 children adopted in the last 12 months.

This was due to the backlog in the courts, with six months being the average time it is taking to go through the legal system, the council’s children and young people scrutiny committee was told.

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Wigan Town Hall

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Coun Fred Walker said: “Thirteen children adopted in our borough over the last 12 months. It seems remarkably low.

“I cannot believe it could be that low. I am just shocked at that. Can you tell me why it is so pathetic?”

The officer explaining The Child’s Journey through our Services report said this number will significantly increase in the coming months as the courts make their way through the backlog.

Answering another query as to why it takes so long to get through the courts, she explained that the number of complexities in different family situations determines the time in which cases get through the legal system.

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The team was praised for its efforts in all other aspects of the report, after they detailed the route a child goes through the care system. They used data to explain this to the chamber.

“We want all children in Wigan to be happy, healthy and safe; to feel listened to and to have the maximum opportunities to be ambitious,” the report said.

“If children or their families need help and support it should be at the right time, by the right person and in the right place for them.”

The team explained they had taken steps to ensure the child’s view to gain insight into their family life. This is a key area of development for the team, which is looking to increase the number of engagements with the children.

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The service lead for safeguarding has developed a Safeguarding Soldiers group, made up of 10 children from a primary school, and there is a group of young people of secondary school age. They have met once and have suggested a newsletter for primary school children.

Delving deeper into the data, the report said: “There were 636 children looked after in Wigan on February 28, 2022. This is a rate of 92.29 per 10,000, just below our statistical neighbours. We work hard to ensure that children and young people have stable homes to live in.

“68.9 per cent of children who have been looked after for 2.5 years have lived in the same placement for the last two years. The statistical neighbour rate for this measure is 69 per cent.

“Nationally, this figure is 70 per cent. We have also reduced the number of children who have experienced three or more moves.

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“There are currently 420 children in foster care in Wigan, of which 331 are placed with Wigan foster families. In the past year, we have refreshed our Deal for Foster Carers and improved our payments to carers.

“A paper was recently taken to the children and young people’s scrutiny committee on care leavers in Wigan. There were 181 care leavers in Wigan as at the end of February 2022.

“We are in touch with 170 (94 per cent) of our care leavers.”