Care applications in July were the highest they have ever been, according to figures from Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service).
Cafcass received 1,013 applications in July, up 16% on the same time last year and the highest number of applications ever recorded in a single month.
The figure comes in the wake of the implementation of the 2014 Children and Families Act which limits the timescale for care proceedings to 26 weeks.
Explaining the dramatic leap in care demand, Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas said it “shows the continuing volatility in the national totals for care applications”.
Douglas said the rise had been predicted by Cafcass since the introduction of the revised public law outline (PLO) in April this year. The PLO details the legislation that limits care proceedings to 26 weeks.
“The impact of the revised PLO, where the national average duration of new cases is now under the 26 week limit, is helping to focus attention on early planning for children who cannot stay at home or return home,” he said. “These cases are receiving an even-higher priority in local authorities – to good effect.”
John Simmonds, director of policy, research and development at the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, expressed concern of what new care proceedings could do to the system if figures continue to rise in this way.
“We have seen the introduction of the requirement that care proceedings be completed in 26 weeks,” he said. “An increase in care applications of this size, if maintained, will put intolerable pressure on the courts, local authorities, Cafcass and families themselves.”
Douglas said future trends remain unclear but noted: “All the indications are that children at the highest levels of risk from neglect and abuse are being brought into the formal care system for the right reasons at an earlier stage, with increasing improvements in case planning on the part of local authorities. This in turn increases the chances of them being placed successfully.”
Despite the July increase, care applications between April 2013 and March 2014 are still 5% lower than the number received between April 2012 and March 2013.