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Cafcass Chief Executive addresses the rising number of children in care

LGA Conference hears that number of looked after children has reached a new high of 72,670

At the Local Government Association's National Children and Adult Services Conference in Bournemouth, Cafcass Chief Executive Anthony Douglas has addressed the rising number of children in care and encouraged efforts to recruit new social work staff and carers.

Mr Douglas said:

"The care system has to gear up for higher numbers. This needs new investment, new ideas and most of all the next generation of staff and carers to be recruited, motivated and supported."

Anthony explained how Cafcass has adapted its practice to meet the requirements of the Children and Social Work Act 2017, which comes into effect on 31st October this year.

In an article for The Guardian which coincided with the conference, he set out five recommendations for ensuring a safe and effective sector for the future. They are:

"1.  A local service to disrupt the repeated removal of children from the same parent (one in four care applications), and with six in 10 of these parents having been abused or neglected themselves and four in 10 having been in care, to stem inter-generational harm and to promote reversibility.

2. A local care enterers' service, working with young people on the edge of care to try to halt the rising numbers of adolescents in the care population.

3.  A local therapeutic support service to meet the needs of the growing number of children and young people who require help to recover from trauma experienced at home.

4.  Workforce development to build the competent, proud and supported care workforce of the future.

5. A local care system re-design to put more capacity on the frontline and to re-position child protection services and the care system as one of the major public health issues of our time."

The conference heard that official figures show the total number of looked after children reached a new high of 72,670 in 2016/17, up from 70,440 the year before. This also represents the biggest annual rise of children in care in seven years.

The LGA said that stretched children's services continue to face increasing pressure and that the figures highlight the urgent need for the Chancellor to use his Autumn Statement next month to address the £2 billion funding gap facing children's services by 2020.

Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said:

"Children's services are at a tipping point with growing demand for support combining with ongoing council funding pressures to become unsustainable."

The LGA is also calling on Ministers to invest in improving children's services by devolving a proportion of the Department for Education's £300 million budget for centrally-run improvement and innovation programmes to councils.

This would help deliver an enhanced programme of sector-led support for children's services, offering everything from regular 'health checks' and training for lead members and senior officers, to specific support for those councils judged to require improvement.

For the LGA's press release concerning the conference, click here. For more details of Anthony Douglas' s speech, click here. For his article in The Guardian, click here.