Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 14:34 UK

Care cases remain at higher pace

Care cases increase
The advisory service supports the increase in care proceedings

There appears to have been a culture shift with councils taking more children into care in England following the Baby P abuse case, figures show.

The body which safeguards children's interests in court, Cafcass, has now published four years' worth of care applications, month by month.

It had reported an "unprecedented" rise in applications after the Baby P case.

It says: "This trend has continued at significant levels and represents a shift in intervention thresholds."

The figure for March 2009 was 739 compared with 536 in March last year, an increase of 37.9%.

The chief executive of Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service), Anthony Douglas, said: "The increase represents real cases which are nearly always upheld by a family court due to the power and strength of the evidence - there is no evidence that children are being taken into care needlessly.

"In fact it is our view that more children are now being safeguarded who would otherwise be at risk of neglect or harm."

Already on list

He said: "We are seeing an increase in cases coming to the courts of children already known to local authorities and where chronic neglect is the main feature."

This will be an issue in an independent review being conducted into how social services in the London borough of Haringey dealt with the case of a girl raped by one of the men responsible for Baby P's death.

The boyfriend of Baby P's mother was found guilty of raping the girl when she was aged two.

Like Baby P (Peter) the girl was already on the council's child protection list at the time.

'Vilification'

Mr Douglas said that on a longer view there were fewer children entering the care system than in some previous decades.

"We understand more about the serious difficulties those children have experienced and how much it will take in terms of time and resources to put that right for them."

The chief executive of the charity Barnardo's, Martin Narey, said the rise in care applications might be an over-reaction but he would be troubled if they fell back.

He said: "Historically there has been too great a concentration on fixing families, almost at any cost and sometimes putting the rights of the parents before the needs of a vulnerable child.

"That is not a criticism of social workers who have very difficult judgments to make.

"But as memories of Baby P fade, our fear is that, once again, social workers will face vilification for taking a child away from his or her natural parents."

It is the job of Cafcass to supply children's guardians when required by the law or the courts.

Another problem exposed by the latest cases is that there is a backlog of hundreds of cases where, because of a shortage, guardians have not been appointed.



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