Although the increase in section 31 applications “can be attributed to the ‘Baby P effect’, local authorities have taken the appropriate action in making most applications”, according to a Cafcass survey looking at the reasons behind the rise in applications.
In 98% of the cases referred to in survey responses, the children’s guardian allocated to the case believed the referral was “appropriately timed, or should have been brought to court by the local authority earlier”. This suggests that the increase in care applications is not due to inappropriate referrals, following heightened public awareness or scaremongering.
The small-scale study focused on cases from within 10 selected Cafcass service areas where the section 31 application was made in the three weeks after 11 November 2008, when details of Baby P’s death in Haringey emerged through a criminal court case.
Of those cases brought before the courts, 68% of those subject to an existing child protection plan were registered as “neglect”.
An LGA spokesperson said: “If as a country we decide that the state needs to intervene sooner and more frequently in family life, there will need to be a rethink about the nature of the care system and how that can best be done. The current system was not designed to deal with the increased number of children currently being referred to it.”