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Care applications rise above 10,000 for first time

12 April 2012

The number of care applications rose by more than ten per cent in the last financial year, taking the total to over 10,000 for the first time, Cafcass has reported.

January 2012 saw 912 applications, the highest number ever recorded in one month. The total received from April 2011 to the end of March 2012 was 10,199.

Maggie Roberts, partner at Foot Anstey in Taunton, accepted that Baby P could have been a reason for the rise in applications, but also said there was a lot more locum or short-term social workers working with children than previously.

“It may be that they come in with fresh eyes and see things in a different way,” Roberts said.

“Social services departments must be desperately worried that they don’t get their names in the papers. They are also carrying out a lot less preliminary work than they used to.”

Roberts said the growth in care applications was not leading to an increase in the number of law firms carrying out public law children work, but to an increased use of non-specialist solicitors and more junior staff.

She said that legal aid rates for childcare lawyers had been cut by ten per cent and it was more difficult to find experts, as their pay had also been cut.

Roberts added that it would be “almost impossible” in the current cost-cutting climate for the government to achieve the target set out in the Norgrove report for care proceedings to be limited to six months.

Anthony Douglas, chief executive of Cafcass, said all agencies working with children needed to change the way they worked “if the most vulnerable children in the country are to continue to receive strong public services in these tough times”.

He went on: “Having said that, this rise shows that all agencies are working more quickly to ensure that children are removed from deeply damaging households where many have been for some time and are showing a lower tolerance for poor parenting.”

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Children Local government