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AM voices worry over number of kids in care

By emma denholm

Source: South Wales Evening Post

NPT Comment

AN Assembly member has voiced dismay that Swansea now has more children in care than Cardiff.

Bethan Jenkins, AM for South Wales West, said she is concerned that the number of children in care in the city has gone up from 395 in 2008 to 560 in 2010.

Cardiff had 530 children in care in 2010 according to social services statistics published on the Welsh Assembly Government's website.

Ms Jenkins said there had also been an increase in the number of children in care within the Neath Port Talbot area, with the figure going from 285 in 2008 to 390 in 2010.

She said: "When I visited a foster care charity in Swansea last year, staff there made it clear that there needs to be more alternatives to local authority care, as good as it is."

She added: "These figures suggest that this is clearly not the case."

Ms Jenkins said she now plans to bring the issue to the attention of the children's minister, when that person is appointed to the new Welsh Government, and will also speak with the two local authorities.

When asked about the figures, Swansea Cabinet member for social services, Nick Tregoning, said: "As far as the whole authority is concerned any child who requires the protection of the local authority will receive it regardless of how much it costs the authority."

He added that the council has put an extra 5 million into child and family services to enable it to look after children who come to its notice.

"We have already recruited more foster carers this year than in previous years," said Mr Tregoning.

Julie Rzezniczek, head of children's services at Neath Port Talbot Council, said the authority has seen only a gradual rise (4.4 per cent) in numbers of looked after children over the past year, following the previous year's rapid increase of 34 per cent.

"Neath Port Talbot has undertaken an analysis of the situation which points to the need for a more focused approach to early intervention with families," said Ms Rzezniczek.

She added: "We are currently in the process of implementing new ways of working which aim to address this need."