MORE than 1,000 children in Hampshire are in the care system, new figures have shown.

Department for Education data shows that 1,661 children were in care across the county in March, the equivalent of 58 in every 10,000 young people.

This was a slight rise on the previous year which had 56 children in care, but was down on figures from March 2019 which saw 59 children in the system.

This comes as the number of children being looked after by councils across England hit a record high in the first year of the pandemic, as adoption processes slowed down and youngsters spent longer in care.

Children's charity Barnardo's has now said that the pandemic left many vulnerable children on the brink of crisis, with lockdowns and school closures meaning they often missed out on support.

But Councillor Roz Chadd, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, said: “The number of children in the care of Hampshire County Council reduced in 2019/20 as a direct result of our innovative transformation work across Children’s Services with the introduction of a proactive, multi-disciplinary approach to working with vulnerable children and their families.

“The pandemic has seen more vulnerable children and families needing greater support. Demand for children’s social care services has risen and that has led to a small increase to the number of children in the care of the County Council.

"However, those numbers have since plateaued and as society continues to adapt to the pandemic, we anticipate those numbers will reduce once more."

Hampshire's rate across England in March this year was lower than the 67 in every 10,000 recorded across the country but now the Local Government Association – which represents councils – has said the "right level" of funding was needed to allow local authorities to prevent children reaching crisis.

Cllr Chadd added: “Hampshire Children’s Services already has family hubs delivering multi agency early help, and the recent Government announcement of more funding for this important area of family support is welcomed.”