THE number of children in care continues to rise locally, amid national warnings that the system is nearing breaking point.

Shropshire Council had 396 ‘looked after children’ in 2019, according to new figures, at a cost of £22.1m.

In Worcestershire there were 833 at a cost of £47m.

In both cases these figures are well up on four years ago.

Shropshire’s total has gone up by 86 and the cost has risen nearly £5m. Worcestershire’s rise is 145, with a jump of £10m.

In terms of how likely a council is to place a child in care, Shropshire is close to the English average.

The English ratio is 65 children in every 10,000, while Shropshire’s is 66. Worcestershire is higher, at 71 while neighbouring Herefordshire has one of the higher ratios, at 92.

Shropshire was looking after 14 unaccompanied asylum seeking children in 2019 and Worcestershire had 37.

The Local Government Association say there has been a 28 per cent rise in the number of under 18s in care in the past decade and this is not sustainable.

Karen Bradshaw, director of children’s services with Shropshire Council, said: “Shropshire has a lower than the national average number of children who are in our care, although we have seen a rise in the last few years, as have many councils nationally.

“The Local Government Association (LGA) has published its views on the cost and availability of placements and we have contributed to their collation of this information. We are concerned about the rising costs, and currently growth in placement costs is considered as part of our short-term and long-term financial strategy.

“We also know that outcomes for children are better if they can be supported to remain within their families, so as a council we are exploring ways to support families to be able to continue to care for children long- term.

“In doing this an anticipated outcome would be reduction in costs of placements.”