Statistics released by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has shown a drop in the number of care applications for children in 59 per cent of local authorities.
All local authorities in England have a responsibility to help children experiencing neglect. This is measured by comparing the number of care applications they make per 10,000 child population within their area.
The new figures show there were 797 care applications in April 2014, down from 919 in April of last year.
The total number of care applications for the period between April 2013 and March 2014 was 10,606, which represents a five per cent drop from the previous year. This marks the first drop in applications in a few years. The number has in fact been steadily increasing since 2008 since the Baby P scandal.
Baby Peter Connelly suffered more than fifty injuries over an eight month period, during which he was repeatedly seen by Haringey Children’s services. Despite this, Haringey failed to take any action to remove Peter from his home. Peter sadly died in August 2007. His mother, her boyfriend and his brother were all found guilty of “causing or allowing the death of a child or vulnerable person”. A number of inquiries were subsequently ordered, and the child protection services of Haringey and other agencies were widely criticised.
Local authorities responded to this by dramatically increasing the number of care applications that they were making, seemingly to ensure that nothing ‘slipped through the net’ and to potentially avoid criticism for failure to act. By May 2013 the number of care applications had risen by a massive 70 per cent since the Baby P case. Now the trend finally appears to be reversing.
Anthony Douglas, chief executive of Cafcass, said: “After year on year rises in applications it is not surprising to see that the rates have steadied – a cohort of children that were at risk have now been protected through the action of local authorities in bringing care proceedings.”
Whilst the statistics have been welcomed, it is important to remember that care proceedings can be a necessary and positive step for some children. Ultimately, the decisions of all those involved must be focussed solely on the best interests of the child.