Adverse publicity from the Peter Connolly court case has produced a rise in referrals and an increasing number of children being taken into care. Council leaders have called for a re-think of how the care system is funded.
The increasing number of children being taken into care will cost the taxpayer an additional £226 million in the current financial year. The Local Government Association estimates that there will be a rise of 32% in the number of care applications going through the courts, equivalent to an extra £39million. Those costs include the resources absorbed in preparation and support, with social workers required to dedicate significant time to the process.
There has also been a rise in the number of children in local authority care. The number entering the care system for the first time went up by 9% during 2008/09. This rise added around £187 million to the cost of the care population. It can be expected to show an even sharper increase during the current year.
Council leaders warn the situation is not sustainable in the long-term, and fear schemes meant to prevent family break-up and to support children from poorer backgrounds may be sacrificed in order to foot the bill for a larger care population. The LGA is warning that if it is decided that the state will have to intervene more often and at an earlier stage in the care of children there will have to be a detailed look at how to produce a system which can do that effectively.