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Children In Care Tops 10,000 In England For First Time

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The annual number of new applications to take children into care has passed the 10,000 mark for the first time, new figures show.

Councils in England launched 886 legal proceedings to remove at-risk youngsters from their families in March, taking the 12-month total to 10,199.

The very high numbers demonstrate the continuing impact of the Baby P tragedy on local authorities since full details of the case were made public in November 2008.

Cafcass, the agency which looks after children's interests in the family courts, said the figures showed that agencies were working more quickly to remove vulnerable youngsters from damaging households.

Total new care applications between April 2011 and March 2012 were up 10.8% from 9,202 in the same period in 2010-11 - and soared 57.2% from the 2008-09 tally of 6,488.

Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas said: "This is the first time care demand figures have broken the 10,000 mark over a 12-month period.

"These consistently high figures for the year have really tested the resilience of our staff and our systems, but we have continued to be a strong organisation that serves the best interests of children.

"While Cafcass gathers this information and is of course impacted by the scale of this increase, all agencies need to realise we have to change the way we work collectively if the most vulnerable children in the country are to continue to receive strong public services in these tough times.

"Having said that, this rise shows that all agencies are working more quickly to ensure that children are removed from deeply damaging households where many have been for some time and are showing a lower tolerance for poor parenting."

Tom Rahilly, the NSPCC's head of strategy and development for looked after children, added: "Whilst the continued high level of care applications looks dramatic, we must remember that the majority of children come into care as a result of abuse or neglect.

"Care provides a safe and supportive environment for these children. This continued rise could simply indicate people are being more alert to situations where children are at risk, which can only be a positive development."

Baby P - now named as Peter Connelly - was just 17 months old when he died in Tottenham, north London, at the hands of his mother Tracey, her violent partner Steven Barker and his brother Jason Owen on August 3, 2007.

He suffered more than 50 injuries despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police and health professionals over an eight-month period.

Sue Kent, professional officer British Association of Social Workers said child protection faced a "major crisis".

“Child protection work is facing a major crisis, soaring referrals yet a government agenda of cuts preventing social workers from doing their jobs properly.
 
“Our members report that the majority of their time is being spent on paperwork, rather than with the children they are hoping to protect, as the admin staff in their team have disappeared.
 
“The government has trumpeted about protecting frontline social workers from being made redundant, yet by axing support staff it has simply turned social workers into administrators.“

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