HUNDREDS of Worcestershire children are in the care system, new data shows.

Children's charity Barnardo's said the Covid pandemic has left many vulnerable children on the brink of crisis, with lockdowns and school closures often causing them to miss out on support.

In Worcestershire the rate of looked after children rose slightly from 69 in March 2020 and was up from 71 in 2019, before the pandemic.

Of those being cared for, more than half (481) were boys, while the largest proportion were aged 10 to 15 years old.

Figures show 204 youngsters in the area started to be looked after in 2020-21.

Department for Education data shows 81,000 children were in care across England in March and 859 were in Worcestershire – the equivalent of 72 in every 10,000 young people in the area.

That was higher than the rate across England, where 67 in 10,000 youngsters were in care on average.

Barnardo's interim co-CEO Lynn Perry said the pandemic contributed to fewer children leaving the care system, with those who turned 18 during lockdowns allowed to stay in care placements longer.

She added: "Fewer children were identified as needing adoption because there was less contact with professionals, while for many children who were ready to move in with their adoptive families, the process was put on hold.

"However, we have been concerned for a while that numbers of adoptions are reducing, and we need to do more to ensure all children who would benefit from an adoptive placement are identified and matched with suitable parents as soon as possible."

The Local Government Association – which represents councils – said the "right level" of funding was needed to allow local authorities to prevent children reaching crisis.

Anntoinette Bramble, of the LGA, said: "With spiralling demand on children’s social services and future cost pressures in children’s social care set to increase, councils still find themselves in the unsustainable position of having to overspend their budgets.

“Councils want to work with government on a child-centred, cross government pandemic recovery plan."

A Government spokesman said it was levelling up outcomes for vulnerable children via a regional recovery fund for children's social care, and said councils were being given £4.8 billion in grant funding to maintain frontline services.