CYPN reports that a  charity is calling for local authorities to do more to keep sibling groups taken into care together, after data it gathered showed half are being separated.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request to all English councils from Family Rights Group (FRG) found 49.5 per cent of sibling groups in state care are split up, and that 37 per cent of looked-after children who have at least one brother or sister in care are living with none of their siblings.

FRG is concerned the duty on local authorities to keep sibling groups together wherever possible has been undermined by recent government reviews of adoption that concluded that trying to find carers to look after siblings could delay an adoption placement.

It is calling for the presumption that it is in the interests of siblings to be kept together when they are taken into care to be strengthened, and for local authorities to ensure they have suitable provision in place to meet the needs of siblings.

The FOI data enabled the FRG to calculate that there were 8,446 sibling groups, containing 21,150 children, in care across the 97 authorities whose data was analysable.

Of these, 50.5 per cent were placed together with carers, ranging from 60 per cent in the West Midlands to 44.6 per cent in the North East.

Despite sibling groups making up a significant proportion of looked-after children, the research found that the average authority has just one specialist sibling foster carer. In addition, of those foster carers with a prior connection to the child, just three per cent were caring for siblings.

FRG said potential placements with family and friends carers should “always be fully explored and assessed for suitability”. It also wants the government to require local authorities to publish a family and friends care policy and place a new duty on them to commission family and friends support services.

Responses to the five questions were received from 122 local authorities, with figures relating to children in care as of 1 July 2014.

However, data from 25 authorities was incomplete, on the grounds that it would cost too much to find out the information requested. One authority estimated it would cost £23,000 to do the work.

FRG said lack of data from some authorities indicated some had poor data systems.

The report states: “It is very concerning that some authorities were not able to extract the data we requested, since it would indicate that whether siblings were being placed together or separated was not being monitored strategically by those authorities.”