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Family Law

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21 OCT 2009

Cafcass struggling to cope as care applications continue to rise

Cafcass latest care statistics for the second quarter of 2009-10 published yesterday show that the number of care applications made by local authorities remains at an unprecedented high level.

Compared to quarter 2 last year, care demand is up 47%. June 2009 had the highest number of care applications ever recorded for a single month since Cafcass began collecting this data.

Anthony Douglas, chief executive of Cafcass, said: "The child protection system is dealing with higher referrals at every stage of assessment and service provision. Children's guardians are now working round the clock to meet the needs of these children as best as we can.

"Whilst the rise in applications is good news for children who need protection, the child care system as a whole will need to gear up to be able to cope with and support these much higher volumes. Greater complexity of cases is also adding a multiplier effect to the rise in referrals."

Cafcass is struggling to cope with the rise in care applications as local authorities are concerned they make a mistake by under-reacting following the Baby P case and face new media scrutiny since the opening of family courts. In an attempt to break the tide, Mr Douglas is calling on social workers to consider carefully whether taking a child into care is the only option before commencing proceedings.

"If we are to avoid risk aversion agencies must regain confidence in their own professional judgements and assessments. The UK child protection system remains one of the safest in the world therefore that confidence is justified", Mr Douglas said.

The financial pressure on Cafcass has also become apparent as last month it announced it was cutting almost seventy jobs under a restructuring plan designed to balance its budget. The restructure is expected to generate £2.7m in efficiency savings by mid-way through the 2010-11 financial year, which will be reallocated to frontline service delivery.

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