Care applications fall 5.7 per cent over two years

By Neil Puffett

| 13 September 2018

The number of applications for children to be taken into care is continuing to fall, official statistics show.

Cafcass received 5.7 per cent fewer care applications in August 2018 than for the same month last year.

Figures published by Cafcass show that in August 2018, Cafcass received a total of 1,179 new care applications. This figure is 5.1 per cent lower than August 2017.

So far in the first five months of 2018/19, the organisation has received 5,881 applications - 2.9 per cent down on the same period in 2017/18.

The figure is 5.7 per cent down in 2016/17, when there were 6,235 applications over the same period, and a record 14,599 over the entire 12-month period.

The figures show that the fewest care applications for the first quarter of 2018/19, the four months from April to June, came in Richmond, where three applications relating to four children were made, and Kensington & Chelsea where four applications were made for four children to be taken into care.

This was followed by Wokingham (three applications relating to five children), Westminster (six applications relating to six children), and Camden (six applications relating to seven children).

The highest level for the first quarter of 2018/19 was in Lancashire where 97 applications were made for a total of 182 children to be taken into care, and Birmingham, where 67 applications were made for a total of 108 children to be taken into care.

In recent years there has been growing concern about levels of care applications and resultant pressure on the system, with Sir James Munby, the president of the Family Division, warning in 2016 that the court system was being overwhelmed.

Efforts to mitigate the rises have included increased efforts by local authorities to develop edge of care support for families and a February 2017 agreement between Cafcass and the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) on how they can work together to secure swifter outcomes for children and their families.

Last week children's minister Nadhim Zahawi said steps are being taken to try to stem significant increases in the number of children being taken into care, with the government "acutely aware" of the impact the situation is having on local authorities.

He said Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance has been reviewed and amended to emphasise the importance of partnership and co-production with families and highlight the effectiveness of relationship-based practice.

Zahawi added that government is actively considering what more can be done, with representatives of the DfE and MoJ meeting with members of national and local family justice boards across England, to understand the challenges in the family justice system better.

Zahawi was speaking in parliament in a debate on the government response to the Care Crisis Review, launched in response to Munby's concerns, which made a total of 20 recommendations as to how to address the situation.

A central suggestion was that more children suffering abuse or neglect should be placed with their wider family in order to reduce the number coming into the care system.

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