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Major sector-led care review launched

A major sector-led review into soaring care applications and increasing levels of children entering care has been launched.

Children’s services directors, children’s lawyers, academics and leading figures within children’s services are uniting to address the rising number of care applications in a seven month long review.

“We are facing a crisis and, truth be told, we have no very clear strategy for meeting the crisis,”
said Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court and stakeholder in the review.

This is not the first time Sir James has spoken out on the issue as he previously highlighted that the courts were “ill prepared” for the rise in care applications and warned that there is no clear strategy in place to deal with the increasing number of court cases.

There was a record 14,597 care applications made between April 2016 and March 2017. This is up from 10,620 in 2013-14. The number of children entering care are at the highest levels since 1985.

Earlier this year, Cafcass and the ADCS launched guidance encouraging social workers and guardians to work together on cases in a bid to deal with the growing numbers of cases. However they were later forced to withdraw the guidance following criticism.

The chief executive of Cafcass Anthony Douglas and Alison Michalska, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) are among stakeholder members which also include SCIE’s Tony Hunter and the children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield.

The review, chaired by Nigel Richardson, recently retired Director of Children's Services at Leeds City Council, aims to:

  • examine the reasons for the rise in care proceedings and number of children in care
  • retain a focus on achieving the best outcomes for children and families
  • take account of the current national economic, financial, legal and policy context that impacts on families and on local authority and court practice
  • identify specific changes to local authority and court systems and national and local policies and practices that will help safely stem the increase in the number of care cases coming before the family courts and the number of children in the care system.

The review will make a call for evidence between December and March 2018 asking for evidence about the drivers for the rise in care proceedings and number of children in the care system or any research findings about policies and practices that may safely lead to reductions in care applications and children coming into or remaining in care. A report is due in June 2018.

The review is sector-led because all stakeholders have knowledge and expertise about the service responses that can make a difference to children and families and may help to safely avert the need for care proceedings. There is a groundswell of opinion that those most affected by the crisis should take a combined lead in promoting ways of supporting families to avoid problems escalating, the group said.

Those wishing to contribute should email to carecrisis@frg.org.uk.

 

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