Page last updated at 23:15 GMT, Sunday, 6 September 2009 00:15 UK

Vulnerable babies call rejected

Court drawing of the brothers
The boys pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm

The Government has dismissed calls from the charity Barnardos for at-risk children to be taken into care earlier.

Barnardos chief Martin Narey said it was better to remove vulnerable babies soon after birth, than deal with their complex behavioural problems later.

He was speaking after the trial of two young brothers found guilty of a vicious attack on two other boys.

But Children's Secretary Ed Balls said removing babies born to problem parents should not be a first resort.

Charity chief executive Mr Narey told the BBC that more newborn children born into problem families needed to be taken into care to stop them from being damaged by bad parents.

I don't think the right thing to do in these cases is immediately to put children into care
Children's Secretary Ed Balls

He said the reduction in numbers of children in care has gone too far - and sometimes too much effort went into helping families which could not be fixed.

He said: "Social workers will tell me that there are frequently occasions when, from a child being born, they know that child is most unlikely to succeed, most unlikely to be nourished and loved.

"In those circumstances the very best possible option would be adoption."

Concern over the wider social problems generated by abusive families has grown following Thursday's court case when the brothers, aged 10 and 12, admitted torturing their young victims with sticks and cigarettes.

The boys, from Edlington in South Yorkshire, admitted charges of grievous bodily harm and will be sentenced in November.

During the case, disturbing details of the brothers' chaotic and abusive home life emerged, together with questions over why the authorities were not able to intervene earlier.

Doncaster Social Services is now conducting a serious case review into the attacks.

Ed Balls
Mr Balls was responding to comments by the chief executive of Barnardo's

Questioned on Sky News about the background to the attacks, Mr Balls said that "serious issues" of alcoholism and abuse had been at play in the family.

He added: "In that kind of case, we need to intervene and engage, but I don't think the right thing to do in these cases is immediately to put children into care."

Mr Balls added: "I don't think it's right to say that we can't support these kinds of families.

"The right thing to do in these cases is to say 'Can we sort out the problems in that family?'"

But he stressed attacks of this nature were not an everyday story.

"That was a vile crime, it was a horrific crime," he said.

"It is good that these are rare cases, they don't happen very often at all, but when they do we are all appalled."

Government figures indicate that comparatively fewer children are now taken into local authority care, compared to a few decades ago.

However, there has been a surge in case applications made by local authorities since November 2008.

Officials say this could be explained by local authorities lowering the amount of evidence needed to take a child into care, following the publicity surrounding the Baby P case.

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