New research from Cafcass shows that local authorities are making care applications at an earlier stage of their involvement with vulnerable children.
The study surveyed more than 200 Cafcass guardians in relation to 247 care applications, involving 401 children, made in November 2011. The research is a repeat of the study conducted in 2009 into the rise in care applications.
In this study 19.8% of children had not been previously involved with children's services at the time of the application, almost double the 11.5% seen in the 2009 study. Only 9.1% of children had been continuously involved with children's services for more than five years, a quarter of the 36.1% seen in the 2009 study. The figures suggest that local authorities are taking action earlier.
The majority of Cafcass guardians support the local authorities are acting more quickly. In two thirds of cases guardians felt that the care application was timed appropriately, a marked increase from the level of just over half the cases in 2009. In the vast majority of cases (85.4%), guardians believed that the local authority's care application was the only viable action to keep children safe and that there was no other alternative to court proceedings.
Since 2007-08 Cafcass has witnessed a 62% increase in the numbers of local authority care applications. In 2011-12, the number of applications topped 10,000 for the first time ever.
Anthony Douglas, Chief Executive commented: "After the panic that came with the Baby Peter media storm, the intensive reviewing by local authorities of cases has paid off for children: the intervention they need is coming earlier and cases are drifting less. Local authority staff are to be praised for this improved performance and local authority members should be praised for their political bravery in supporting these vital but not always locally popular services. We will repeat this valuable study in three years' time, to assess whether progress is being maintained."