Reporting Year 2021

Children looked after in England including adoptions

Data guidance



This document describes the data included in the ‘Children looked after in England including adoptions: 2020 to 2021’ National Statistics release’s underlying data files. This data is released under the terms of the Open Government License and is intended to meet at least three stars for Open Data.

The methodology document for this subject should be referenced alongside this release. It provides information on the data sources, their coverage and quality and how the data is produced.

A guide for the 2021 data collection provides further information on the data collected.


This data is based upon information collected in the SSDA903 (CLA) data collection. It is a child level dataset collected from local authorities in England annually. The data includes information on: 

  • children looked after on 31 March in each year, including unaccompanied asylum seeking children
  • children looked after at any time
  • children who started to be looked after
  • children who ceased to be looked after
  • children looked after who were adopted
  • care leavers now aged 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 years old
  • children who went missing or away from placement without authorisation

 The longitudinal nature of the collection means historical information can be amended each year, so we update all time series figures published in each release.  Unless otherwise stated, numbers and percentage exclude children looked after under an agreed  series of short term placements. 

Users of the data should consider the following:

  • for some local authorities, for example Kent or Croydon, the figures may be impacted by large numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and their distinctive characteristics.
  • from April 2019 the three local authorities ‘Dorset’, ‘Bournemouth’ and ‘Poole’ reorganised into  two local authorities ‘Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole’ and ‘Dorset’. As part of this, a small number of children formerly looked after in the Christchurch area of Dorset were transferred to the new authority ‘Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole’.
  • Information on children who are missing or who are away from their placement without authorisation are published as Official Statistics. Users should refer to the methodology guide when using this data and should be cautious interpreting any figures across years or between local authorities due to differing practices. Hackney did not provide any missing or away without authorisation data in 2021.

File formats and conventions

Rounding and suppression

National and regional figures have been rounded to the nearest 10.  Local authority figures are unrounded.

Where any number is shown as zero, the original figure submitted was zero. 

The following symbols have been used in the release:

  • ‘c’ to protect confidentiality. Secondary suppression may have been applied
  • ‘z’ for not applicable
  • ‘:’ for not available
  • ‘~’ for negligible – also used for a percentage (<0.5%) that would round to 0 but is not zero

For percentages:

  • where the numerator or denominator is small then the figure is replaced by ‘c’
  • they may not sum to 100% due to rounding
  • they are rounded to whole numbers

Also in the release:

  • the average duration for adoptions (formerly table E2) are rounded to the nearest month
  • the average number of missing or away without authorisation incidents (formerly in table G1) have been rounded to one decimal place.

Data files

All data files associated with this releases are listed below with guidance on their content. To download any of these files, please visit our data catalogue.