The number of care applications for children at risk has remained at “unprecedentedly high levels” the latest figures the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) show.
Statistics for the two quarters from April to September show demand for court services has been 3.8% higher than for the same period last year, while 2009-10 saw a 35.8% increase in public-law care applications compared with the previous year.
CAFCASS said that from April to last month, 4,491 new applications had been made with each month save for June marking a “highest ever” level for the service created in 2001.
The figures underscore the increased pressure that additional referrals are creating for children’s services departments across England.
CAFCASS chief executive Anthony Douglas said the level of activity was “positive for children” but “a challenge” for the family justice system.
“Our collaborative ways of working with the judiciary and local authorities have helped us to provide a service to more children than ever before and these will be key in the post-CSR world where all organisations will be under further pressure,” he said.
Earlier this month, annual statistics from the Department of Education showed that the number of children in care had risen by 6% to 64,400 in 2009-10 from the previous year.
Children’s minister Tim Loughton said those statistics indicated that councils’ children’s services departments were “still experiencing fallout from the Baby Peter case” and that pressures would “remain challenging”.
“I recognise there are concerns about funding, but that’s why it’s more important than ever that we make the best use of our most valuable resource – social workers – and trust them to get on with their vital job at the sharp end,” he said.
“They need more support and greater professional freedom so that they are able to spend more time with children and make well-informed judgements.”