New figures from Cafcass show drop in care applications

Statistics released by Cafcass show the number of care applications received per 10,000 child population – the rate of care applications – by each local authority (LA) in England with children’s services responsibilities.

The numbers run from 2008-09, the year of the tragic Peter Connelly case in Haringey, to 2013-14.

They show that over this period the rate of application rose from 5.9 in 2008-09 to 9.7 in 2012-13, a rise of 64%, but that it has dropped to 9.2 in 2013-14. This is lower than 2012-2013 levels but is still higher than 2011-12 levels.   

The rate of care application is significant as it helps identify trends in care proceedings independent of population growth.

The statistics show considerable local variations in the number of applications per 10,000 children:

    59% of LAs (90/152), showed a decrease in the number of applications per 10,000 child population compared to last year. The largest decrease for a single LA was by 58%, 12.4 applications per 10,000 child population.

    38% of Local Authorities (58/152) showed an increase in the number of applications per 10,000 child population. The largest increase for a single LA was by 194%, seven applications per 10,000 child population.

    3% of LAs show no change.

    17% of LAs (26 / 152) have had a decrease in applications per 10,000 children for two consecutive years in a row, from 2011/12 – 2013/14. The largest 2-year decrease (difference between 2013/14 and 2011/12) is by 55%, 16.4 applications per 10,000 child population.

    22% of local Authorities (33 / 152), have had an increase in applications per 10,000 child population for two years in a row 2011/12 – 2013/14. The largest two year increase (difference between 2013/14 and 2011/12) is by 162%, 12.8 applications per 10,000 child population.

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.

“These children have also seen swifter justice, with remarkable reductions in the duration of these proceedings across the country. The fact that these reductions have been made in many cases ahead of the introduction of the 26 week limit set out in the Revised Public Law Outline, the Children and Family Act is even more remarkable and shows how well Cafcass, local authorities and judges are now working together.

“We will continue to meet with family justice colleagues to understand the differences in rates, to identify the best pockets of practice, and ensure that social work practice is developed to provide a sharp service that meets the needs of each individual child.”

Alison O’Sullivan, Vice President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services said:”Local authorities continue to look at the data in detail and analyse what their local figures are telling them. We know that most local authorities saw a rise in care proceedings following the tragic death of Peter Connolly and that a levelling off of the rise was to be expected.

“Statistics alone will never tell us the full picture of what is happening to children and families in a local area. Changes to the family justice system and the reduction in the duration of care proceedings have been brought about collectively by local authority managers, social workers, Cafcass, judges and lawyers.

“We will continue to work together to ensure that improvements that are already underway continue in the future. By changing the way we work and further improving the quality of our assessments, we have shifted the burdens of the process away from the courts and back into the care planning process which is the right thing to do for children and families.

“We must also remember that care proceedings are a necessary and positive step for some children and our decisions must always be focussed on the needs of the children.”