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Breakdown of care applications by local authority shows wide variations across the country

Next step is to find the causes of variations, says ADCS

Since 2008-09, the year of the "Baby P" case, care applications in England have risen by 70%.  During that period there has been a 64% rise in the number of applications per 10,000 children across local authorities.

Statistics released by Cafcass list the number of care applications per 10,000 children by each local authority in England with children's services responsibilities. These figures show that over the same period, the number of applications per 10,000 children has risen from 5.9 to 9.7. The rise in the number of applications is significant because it shows that it does not result from population growth but from other causes, such as changes in thresholds or policy shifts.

The statistics show considerable local variations in the number of applications per 10,000 children. For example, in Blackpool care applications have risen almost threefold in five years (from 11.2 to 32.0 per 10,000 children) whereas in Essex they have fallen (from 4.8 to 4.3 per 10,000 children). Individual local authorities have seen increases of up to 500% (note that this is apparent in areas where the numbers are relatively small) and decreases up to 46%. 139 areas have seen increases, 13 areas have seen decreases.

Anthony Douglas, Chief Executive of Cafcass, said:

"The rise in care applications is evidence that more children are being protected in England, which should reassure the general public who were concerned about under-reaction to child abuse after hearing what happened to Peter Connelly. It is clear that we have been quicker to respond to serious concerns about a child's safety and welfare. Our priority now is to develop an even safer and sustainable child protection system, care system and family justice system in England. Cafcass and ADCS are working together on a range of sector-led improvement programmes which we intend will make a contribution to the continuous improvement of services to our country's most vulnerable children."

Andrew Webb, President of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, said:

"The next step is to look at the data in detail and explore the reasons for the variations between different local authorities. We know, for example, that areas responded in different ways following the publicity around the tragic death of Peter Connolly but nearly all areas saw a rise in care applications. Some local authorities are now beginning to see a decline in the rates of care applications in contrast to the national picture. We must dig deeper into these statistics to discover why that is the case as the figures cannot tell us the full picture of what is happening in local areas. All directors of children's services are working hard to safeguard and protect children and young people in their local areas."

The senior Cafcass manager in each local area will be writing to Directors of Children's Services today, inviting further discussion and analysis of the local trends, exploring the local factors involved and determining whether there are clear trends which require short or long-term action. This will build on the strong work that has been taking place through many local partnership bodies such as Local Family Justice Boards and Local Safeguarding Children Boards.

Click here to view statistics for care applications per 10,000 children by local authority.