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Why is the number of children in care rising?


Since the Baby P case hit the headlines in late 2008, there has been a significant rise in the number of children in England being taken away from their parents and put into care. The children's court advisory service, Cafcass, says there were more than 900 applications in January, more than a third higher than three years ago, and a new record figure.

Social worker Anne Farmer, area children's service manager for Bristol, told Today presenter Evan Davis that the increase in the number of children in care had come about because social services were increasing able to make "finely balanced judgements in a more accurate way" about individual cases.

Matt Dunkley, director of Children's Services at East Sussex County Council, also President of the Association of Directors of Childrens' Services, believed that there is now "a better understanding of the corrosive… impact of neglect on children development," adding that there had been an increase in the incidence of neglect, particularly around drug and alcohol abusing parents.

Christina Blacklaws, a lawyer with the Co-operative Legal Services specialising in this area, said that social workers were "effectively damned if they do and damned if they don't often when it comes to child protection.

"However, I am worried that local authorities may now be being overly cautious, potentially removing children who could safely at home with support, rather than face another Baby Peter situation."

And she added "the last resort should be care proceedings and removing children from their families" and anything other than care in a caring family home "is less than best".

Seventeen-month-old Baby P, Peter Connelly, died after suffering more than 50 injuries in Haringey, north London, in August 2007.

This was despite being known to Haringey Council children's services, and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police and health professionals in the last eight months of his life.

The child's mother and two men were jailed for causing the death, while a series of investigations subsequently identified opportunities when officials could have saved him if they had acted properly on the warning signs.

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