Thursday, 11 June 2009

Children left in legal limbo as care applications surge

Court services are struggling to cope with a sharp rise in demand for legal guardians to work with children in care cases, in the aftermath of the Baby P tragedy
Hundreds of vulnerable children are going through care proceedings without a dedicated legal guardian because of a surge in casework, the government has admitted.
Applications to take youngsters away from families for their own protection have soared following the public and media outcry over the Baby P case. Care applications soared in the months following the conviction, last November, of the killers of Baby P, a 17-month-old boy on the child protection register of Haringey council in north London.
In March a record 739 applications were made, up 38% on the previous year.
New figures obtained in a parliamentary written answer show that the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) is struggling to find enough professionals to appear in cases.
The Liberal Democrat children's spokesman, David Laws, had inquired about how many, and what proportion of, children in care have not been assigned a legal guardian.
Beverley Hughes, children's minister until she resigned last week, revealed that Cafcass is processing 9,060 care cases, "of which 635 are currently unallocated to Cafcass guardians". The figure represents 7% of the total care workload.

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