Number of care applications hits record annual level

By Gabriella Jozwiak

| 13 March 2017

The number of applications for children to be taken into care has risen to its highest level, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has revealed.

In 2016/17 so far a total of 13,242 applications for children to be taken into care have been made - a new record. Picture: Morguefile

Figures published today by Cafcass show that the number of care applications in 2016/17 has surpassed last year's record tally with a month to spare.

The statistics show that in February there were 1,134 applications, taking the total for 2016/17 to 13,242, going past the figure recorded for 2015/16 of 12,791. 

With figures for March still to be added to the total, it is likely the final figure for 2016/17 will be well in excess of 14,000.

The rising trend began in 2014, when the total for 2014/15 rose by five per cent to 11,159 care applications. Previously, in 2013/14, there were 10,620 applications, a four per cent fall on the previous year when there were 11,110.

In September 2016 Cafcass said it was working with the Ministry of Justice to try to halt the rising numbers

Efforts included highlighting and promoting local areas of good practice in pre-proceedings work to ensure children did not need to be the subject of court proceedings, stronger child protection planning and a greater focus on working with extended family members to look after children. 

At the time Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas, the organisation's chief executive, said increases in demand, in both care applications and other forms of court work, were a "major issue".

In the same month, England's most senior family court judge said the record rise in care applications signalled a looming "crisis".

Sir James Munby said the reasons for the increases in care applications are little understood, and although investigations are under way, much more research on the issue is necessary as a matter of urgency.

Anthony Douglas, chief executive of Cafcass, said: "Whilst the rise is not as steep so far in 2017, it remains massive for the year as a whole and the various drivers of rising demand are still in play.

"What matters most is how these multiple drivers intersect at the local level, to cause a local increase or decrease. Our focus is on working with partners to understand the controllable local trends, so that practice and performance can improve where it needs to.

"We are also looking to agree and take measures nationally to ease pressure, such as better use of scarce Cafcass professional time."

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