Publication of ‘Children’s Social Care Statistics for Northern Ireland 2020/21’

Date published: 11 November 2021

The Department of Health has today published the ‘Children’s Social Care Statistics for Northern Ireland 2020/21’.

Children's social care statistics for Northern Ireland

Key Facts and Figures:

Children in Need

  • At 31 March 2021, 23,095 children in Northern Ireland were known to Social Services as a child in need;
  • Some 32,070 children were referred to Social Services during 2020/21, the largest proportion of these children were referred by the Police (39%).

Child Protection Register

  • At 31 March 2021, 2,298 children were listed on the Child Protection Register;
  • Neglect and physical abuse were the main reasons for a child being on the Child Protection Register and accounted for over three quarters of all on the register (73%);
  • A total of 1,921 child protection referrals were received by HSC Trusts;
  • There were 2,065 new registrations to the Child Protection Register and 2,095 de- registrations during the year.

Children in care

  • At 31 March 2021, 3,530 children and young people were in care in Northern Ireland. This was the highest number recorded since the introduction of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995;
  • Some 21% of the children in care had been looked after for less than a year, with 31% looked after for five years or longer;
  • Just over four fifths of the children in care were in foster care placements (81%), 9% placed with parents, 6% in residential care and 4% in other placements. This was similar to previous years;
  • During 2020/21 there were 893 admissions to care and 726 discharges.

Children’s day care

  • At 31 March 2021 there were 3,809 individuals/facilities registered as day care provision for children aged 12 and under in Northern Ireland. This was a 4% decrease on the previous year;
  • Similar to the previous year, childminders made up the largest number of day care providers followed by playgroups;

At 31 March 2021 there were 59,618 registered places for day care in Northern Ireland representing a decrease of 3% on the previous year.

Notes to editors: 

  1. This information was collated by Community Information Branch within the DoH.
  1. This Bulletin is the ninth annual reporting of ‘Children’s Social Care Statistics for NI’ which replaced the ‘Children Order Statistical Tables for NI’ and ‘Children Order Statistical Trends for NI’.
  1. Areas covered within the bulletin include: Children in Need, Child Protection, Children in Care, Residential Care and Day Care, both at and for the year ending 31 March 2021. Trend analyses are presented regionally and by HSC Trusts.
  1. This publication is available online.
  2. Further information is available from:
    Community Information Branch
    Information Analysis Directorate
    Department of Health
    Room 11, Annexe 2,
    Castle Buildings,
    Stormont Belfast BT4 3SP
    Tel:         (028) 90 522580   E-mail:
    Internet: Department of Health
  3. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email
  1. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt.
  1. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service For Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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