Children cases, new projects and outcomes for looked after children: The last week in family law

The latest figures for care applications and private law
demand, for March 2019, have been published by the Children and Family Court
Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’), the organisation that looks after the
interests of children involved in family proceedings. In that month the service
received 1,117 new care applications. This is 9.9 per cent (123 applications)
lower than March 2018. In the last twelve months Cafcass received 13,536 new
care applications; this is a fall of 4.8 per cent (685 applications) from the
previous twelve months. As to private law demand, Cafcass received 4,166 new
cases during March 2019. This is 18.2 per cent (640 cases) higher than March
2018 and the highest March on record. Cafcass has experienced a steep increase
in demand in the last two months. The previous month Cafcass saw the highest
level of demand in February since 2013. Prior to that new private law cases had
been 3.8 per cent higher than the same period previous year.

The Department for Education has announced that children in
and on the edge of care will benefit from £84 million of new investment for
projects designed to strengthen and support families, marking the 30th
anniversary of the Children Act by reaffirming its core principle that, where
possible, children are best brought up with their parents. Up to 20 councils
will receive funding to help improve their practice, supporting families to
stay together wherever appropriate, so that fewer children need to be taken
into care and giving them the best chance to succeed in life. Three ‘early
adopters’ have been unveiled to deliver one of three landmark projects
originally run through the Department for Education’s Innovation Programme:
Darlington, Cambridgeshire and Middlesbrough. The launch of the government’s
Strengthening Families, Protecting Children programme will start work to roll
out the three successful projects to other eligible councils, where there are
persistently high numbers of children being taken into care. Education
Secretary Damian Hinds commented: “Every child deserves to grow up in a stable,
loving family and go through life confident that someone always has your back.
But for too many children, this is simply not a reality. With the number of
children in care rising, many of these children face a far starker version of
reality, one where their parents are in the grips of their own nightmare,
through mental health problems, the trauma of domestic violence or an
addiction. We must assist those parents facing difficulties and work with them
to strengthen their family relationships so they can properly support their
children. In the year that sees the 30th anniversary of the Children’s Act, we
must stay true to its heart – that where possible and safe, children are best
brought up, loved and supported by their parents.”

And finally, the Department for Education has published data
on the outcomes for children who have been looked after by local authorities in
England continuously for at least twelve months, at the 31st of
March 2018. The data showed that in 2018 looked after children performed
slightly better than children in need of support from children’s services at
key stage 2. However, attainment for both looked after children and children in
need is much lower than for non-looked after children. In that period, the
average Attainment 8 scores (Attainment 8 measures the average achievement of
pupils in up to 8 qualifications) for looked after children and children in
need were much less than for non-looked after children. Looked after children
and children in need reaching the end of key stage 4 are three to four times
more likely to have a special educational need than all children. This accounts
for part of the difference. The percentage of looked after children classified
as persistent absentees has increased over recent years from 8.9 per cent in
2014 to 10.6 per cent in 2018. Looked after children are less likely to be
classified as persistent absentees than all children and much less likely than
children in need.