Figures published today show that in February a total of 1,225 care applications were made – the highest-ever figure recorded by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).
It represents an increase of 9.4 per cent, or 105 applications, on the previous record of 1,120 recorded in July 2015.
February’s total also makes 2015/16 a record year for care applications. With March still to go, the total number of care applications for the first 11 months of 2015/16 now stands at 11,513. The previous high of 11,517 was recorded for the full 12-month period of 2014/15.
The increase in the number of care applications comes as the actual number of children in care continues to rise.
Figures published by the Department for Education in October show that, across all councils in England, the number of children in care rose from 68,800 in March 2014 to 69,540 in March 2015.
Dave Hill, vice president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said local authorities are committed to protecting vulnerable children and young people from harm, but added that ongoing financial pressure is making this increasingly difficult for services.
“These figures show an increase in the numbers of care applications being made for children and young people with the highest level of need, this is something we are committed to doing when necessary even in the most challenging circumstances, with more children in need of help and support and less and less resources to do so.
“To date there has been some [financial] protection around core services at the expense of vital early intervention and prevention services such as youth work and children’s centres but now in many places core services are at risk.
“This is a matter of serious concern for directors of children’s services and the sector as a whole. Government must recognise that demand for children’s services must be better understood and adequately funded so that children, young people and their families can lead happy and successful lives.”
It has previously been claimed that rising levels of poverty in the UK and the impact of the refugee crisis are likely to be factors behind the rising number of care applications.
Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of The Who Cares? Trust, said the care system is already under strain and is struggling to cope with ongoing increases in demand.