THE number of children in care in Bolton is at a five-year high ­— and is likely to keep rising.

Figures currently stand at 642 and there are a further 2,430 who could be taken into care.

Of those in care, more than half ­— 327 ­— have been taken into the system because of child abuse or exposure to violence which caused a child protection order to be issued by a court.

Last year, there were nine children taken into care because they were unaccompanied asylum seekers.

There are also more children entering the system than those leaving it.

The increase has meant that Bolton’s care system is bursting at the seams and, unless things change, additional youngsters will have to be cared for outside the borough.

The council blames the increase on a reduction in preventative services which is says have resulted from Government funding cutbacks.

The council says it is currently £5 million over budget and is still overstretched. And it is expecting things to get worse following the roll-out of universal credit.

Opposition leaders say the situation is more complex than just austerity measures, with family breakdown, mental illness and other factors leading to children being placed in care.

While the figures are startling, it is important to see past the statistics and picture the frightened, anxious and lonely young person behind them.