Looked after children (LAC)

This page highlights key guidance and standards for caring for looked after children, including updates on RCPCH work in this important area of safeguarding children and young people

There are currently over 92,000 children in care in the UK. The term ‘looked after children’ is generally used to mean those children who are looked after by the states, howeverthe exact definition of a ‘looked after’ child is different in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

More than half of children are taken into care because of abuse or neglect
(Source: NPSCC. Children in care. Statistics. Accessed 25 March 2015)

Why are looked after children a priority?

Looked after children have the same health risks as their peers but the extent is often exacerbated due to their previous experiences. Looked after children show significantly higher rates of mental health issues, emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression, hyperactivity and autistic spectrum disorder conditions.

For further information on looked after children read section 14.2.1 of the Child Protection Companion.

RCPCH guidance   

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Looked after children: knowledge, skills and competence of health care staff (March 2015)

This document, developed in partnerships with the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of GP, provides a framework for healthcare staff to understand their role and responsibilities for meeting the needs of looked after children. It sets out the required knowledge, skills, attitudes and values required with the ultimate aim of improving life experiences for some of the most vulnerable children in society.

Looked after children: knowledge, skills and competence of health care staff March 2015 (PDF, 555KB, 58 pages)

Model job descriptions are included in the Appendices.

Other guidance

Promoting the health and wellbeing of looked-after children (March 2015)

Statutory guidance from the Department of Health and the Department of Education on the planning, commissioning and delivery of health services for looked-after children. This document replaces statutory guidance on ‘Promoting the health and wellbeing of looked-after children’ issued in 2009

Looked after children: knowledge, skills and competence of health care staff March 2015 (PDF, 559KB, 38 pages)

    www.nice.org.uk/guidance/PH28www.nice.org.uk/guidance/PH28 www.nice.org.uk/guidance/PH28www.nice.org.uk/guidaNICE public health guidance 28 - Looked-aftNICE public health guidance 28 - Looked-after children and young people 

(Issued: October 2010 last modified: April 2013)

The focus of the guidance is on how organisations, professionals and carers can work together to help looked-after children and young people reach their full potential and enjoy the same opportunities in life as their peers.

Looked after children at RCPCH

Since 2010 there has been an appointed Looked after children lead who sits on the RCPCH Child Protection Standing Committee. The current lead is Dr Renu Jainer. Renu also links and collaborates closely with the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) Health Advisors Group Committee.