AN EXTRA £15 million will be invested into work to help keep children in Wales from needing to go into care, and supporting those already in care.

The funding, which will be handed out by the Welsh Government in the next financial year, was announced by children, older people and social care minister Huw Irranca-Davies this week.

The most recent figures show that in March 2017 there were 5,954 children in care in Wales - up five per cent on a year earlier. A similar increase has been seen across the UK.

Mr Irranca-Davies said: “As part of our programme for government, Taking Wales Forward, we set out a clear commitment to examine ways of ensuring looked after children enjoy the same life chances as other children and if necessary reform the way they are looked after.

Our national strategy, Prosperity for All also describes our priorities around supporting children and families at the edge of care and young people in care, particularly as they transition towards adulthood.

“So I’m delighted to confirm we will invest £15 million next year to progress our shared ambition that by intervening with support early we reduce the need for children to enter care and supporting children in care. I expect local authorities, third sector organisations and health boards to work in partnership to use this fund flexibly and creatively across their regions.

"It is essential for successful delivery and want to thank them for them for their co-operation and contribution so far.”

An NSPCC Cymru/Wales spokesman welcomed the announcement.

“Many children who need care placements have suffered from abuse and neglect in their birth families and need to be protected from significant harm," he said.

"There is always a pressing need for adequate resources to provide these children with consistency of care and with the support they need.

“Support for families who are struggling is also vital, so the funding announced by the Welsh Government is a positive step towards giving vulnerable children the best possible chance in life.”