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Children looked after return: guide to submitting data

The children looked after return is an annual statutory data collection for all local authorities. You must complete statutory censuses by law unless there’s a good reason not to.

The data covers the financial year (1 April to 31 March). It records details of:

every child your local authority looks after at any time during the year
all young people who are eligible for care leaver support and whose 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th or 21st birthday falls within the collection period
information on the health of children who have been looked after continuously for 12 months
information on adoptions of looked-after children

Under the Children Act 1989, a child is legally defined as ‘looked after’ by a local authority if he or she:

gets accommodation from the local authority for a continuous period of more than 24 hours
is subject to a care order (to put the child into the care of the local authority)
is subject to a placement order (to put the child up for adoption)

2021 to 2022 return

Return dates are:

collection opens 1 April 2022
data loaded by 31 May 2022
data submitted by 30 June 2022

Submit your data

You should submit your 2020 to 2021 data in XML or CSV format using the ‘CLA 2021 application’. We’ll publish the application before the return opens and notify all users.

See the guide for local authorities for more information on preparing the data.

Return documents

The following documents will help local authorities complete the children looked after return:

2021 to 2022 return

2022 to 2023 return

2023 to 2024 return

Do you need help?

Submitting data

For complex questions, or if you want to request a username and password for the CLA application, please use the service request form. We aim to answer your question within 5 working days.


Please use the feedback form if you have any comments about our data collection service, including the CLA system and the helpdesk service.

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