Agencies struggling to meet demand as more children are taken into care

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A RECORD number of children were taken into care in England last month, figures have revealed.

Local authorities made 903 applications to protect youngsters from abuse or neglect, which is the highest number in a single month.

In January last year the number was 698, compared with 669 in 2010.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) said that it had seen record monthly applications each month since last May.

The body, which was set up in 2001 to look after the interests of children involved in court family proceedings, said the increase makes it more difficult to give vulnerable young people the protection they need.

Between April 2011 and last month, Cafcass received 8,403 new applications. This figure is 12.4 per cent higher when compared to the same period last financial year. If the figures climb at a similar rate to April, the figure will reach 10,000 for the financial year.

The jump in care applications has came in the wake of the furore sparked in November 2008 by the trial over the death of Baby P.

Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas said: “Volatility and variation between local authorities is one thing, and we are used to that, but it is the double-digit increase that makes it harder for the sector to gear up and to ensure the relevant resources are available for all children.

“Nearly every child involved needs love, care and therapy, either back home or elsewhere.

“All agencies need to factor in these much larger increases into their planning systems, resource allocations, workforce development strategies and service contracts, so that the most vulnerable children in the country continue to receive strong public services.”

Barnardo’s chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: “While the increase in the number of children being referred into care might cause alarm, I am pleased that decisions are being made more quickly to remove children from harmful environments.

“While some parents need to be supported to improve the standard of care they provide for their children, where this is not possible we must act.”