Care applications rise 70% in years since Baby P case

Cafcass paints national picture of care applications since 2008-9, revealing some authorities have seen referrals rise by up to 500%

The number of care applications made by social workers in England soared by 70% in the years since the Baby Peter case, statistics released by Cafcass revealed today.

The family courts body published data for care applications across the 152 councils in England. It shows a 70% rise in total between 2012-13 and 2008-09, when news of Baby Peter’s death broke. It also revealed a 64% increase in referrals per 10,000 children, showing the rise is due to social work decisions, rather than population growth.

Over the same period, care applications per 10,000 children rose from 5.9 to 9.7 – a rise of 64%. The figures also reveal huge local variations, with some authorities with small care numbers seeing applications rise by up to 500%. In total, 139 local authorities have seen rising referrals, while 13 councils have seen decreases.

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Last month records highest ever referrals for April

Cafcass has also published the most recent care applications figures, revealing a 20% increase in the last month alone. In April 2013, social workers made 908 applications, compared with 756 in April 2012. Last month’s figures are the highest ever recorded by Cafcass for the month of April.

Andrew Webb, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said all directors are working hard to safeguard children in their local areas and the next step is to look at the data in detail and explore the reasons for local variations. 

“We know, for example, that areas responded in different ways following the publicity around the tragic death of Peter Connolly but nearly all areas saw a rise in care applications. Some local authorities are now beginning to see a decline in the rates of care applications in contrast to the national picture. We must dig deeper into these statistics to discover why that is the case as the figures cannot tell us the full picture of what is happening in local areas.”

More analysis of local trends and variations

Cafcass chief Anthony Douglas said the rise proves more children are being protected, which should reassure anyone concerned about an under-reaction to child abuse.

“Our priority now is to develop an even safer and sustainable child protection system, care system and family justice system in England. Cafcass and ADCS are working together on a range of sector-led improvement programmes which we intend will make a contribution to the continuous improvement of services to our country’s most vulnerable children,” Douglas said.

Cafcass managers in each local area will write to directors today to initiate more analysis of local trends and decide if they need either short or long-term action.

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