More than half of children brought up in the care of Birmingham City Council are at risk of falling onto the scrap heap by the time they are 19, new figures show.
Just over 50 per cent have no job, are not in full time education or on a training course.
The figure, which last year was the worst in the West Midlands, is significantly higher than the national average and represents an increase over the past three years.
However, council officials were forced to admit that there is a major question mark over the accuracy of figures provided by the youth careers service Connexions.
Shank Patel, area manager for the council’s After Care Service, said the specific circumstances of at least 93 out of 201 care leavers were unknown because of problems with Connexions’ electronic database which had failed to record any details.
He admitted: “Not all care leavers have an allocated leaving care and Connexions advisor with a jointly agreed pathway plan for the young person to meet their employment, education and training needs.
“We will be seeking fortnightly meetings with Connexions managers to ask why is it that a young person has become disengaged and how can we challenge this?”
Other statistics presented to the council’s vulnerable children scrutiny committee showed that youngsters in care routinely perform badly at school.
Only 13 per cent of the 134 children in care taking GCSEs last year managed to obtain five A*-C grades, against a 58 per cent pass mark for the city as a whole.
Thirty per cent of looked after children managed to obtain five A*-C GCES excluding English and maths, compared to a city average of 86 per cent.
The 52 per cent figure for NEETs – young adults not in employment, education or training – was slammed by Labour scrutiny committee member Tim Evans.
Coun Evans (Lab Hodge Hill) said: “This figure has been stubbornly high, even in the economic good times.
“This does not inspire confidence in the Connexions service at all.
“We need a big improvement in the performance at school of looked after children because there is a clear link between poor educational outcomes and crime, drug taking and unemployment.”
Mr Patel accepted Coun Evans’s criticism that the service for care leavers was “unacceptable” and in urgent need of improvement.
But he pointed out that most children in care come from challenging backgrounds and “will almost certainly have had disruptions and difficulties in their school careers”.
Krystyna Bolton, head of the council’s Looked After Children Education Service, said the GCSE performance had to be put into perspective.
More than 80 per cent of youngsters in care who sat exams last year had special educational needs.
Ms Bolton added: “A lot of looked after children also have emotional difficulties which act as a barrier to learning.”
Interim Social Care Director Mark Gurrey said councillors had to be realistic about what could be achieved.
Mr Gurrey added: “A lot of our children won’t get five A*-C GCSEs. They just won’t. But that doesn’t mean their education hasn’t been moved on while they have been here.”
Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide young people with a “pathway plan” setting out career opportunities when they leave care at 16, and provide them with a personal adviser.
The plan must be updated and regularly reviewed up to the age of 21, or 25 if the person is in education or training.