Rise in children taken into care

Monday, 16 July, 2007

CONCERN has been raised after it emerged the number of children involved in care proceedings rocketed by more than 60% in just one year.

The increase in care proceedings from 90 in 2005 to 148 in 2006 is 'out of step with the rest of the region' according to one MP.

The 64% increase in Suffolk compares with a rise of just 5% nationally over a four year period.

Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley has called on Suffolk County Council, which initiates care proceedings where it has concerns for the wellbeing of a child, to explain the rise and asked whether the situation was worse in Suffolk than in neighbouring counties.

But Suffolk County Council said the figures signified increasing efforts to ensure the wellbeing of children living in the county.

'This could mean that either the county council is making a particular effort in this area or that the situation in Suffolk is worse than in neighbouring counties,' said Mr Ruffley.

'I hope that this increase is simply the result of the work that Suffolk County Council is doing to ensure the wellbeing of children in our county. Therefore, I have written to the county council's portfolio holders for Children, Schools and Young People's Services, Patricia O'Brien, and Public Protection, Joanna Spicer, asking for their views on the matter.

'We must ensure that those most vulnerable in our society, such as young children, are receiving the care and attention they so desperately need.'

But a spokesman for Parents Against Injustice (PAIN), which supports parents whose children are taken away by social services, said rises in care proceedings in local authority areas were a cause for concern because the greater the number of cases the greater the chance of mistakes being made.

Mrs O'Brien said the number of young people needing care can fluctuate depending on factors such as birth rates.

'An increase like this does not signify anything other than us doing our job properly, which I'm sure people would agree is very important,' she said.

'The wellbeing of children and young people in our county is of utmost importance to us.'

A spokesman for the National Society for the Protection against Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said: No local authority would initiate care proceedings on a child lightly. We all recognise the best place for a child to grow up is in the family home and therefore going into care would never be the first option.

'We continue to strive to find a balance between leaving a child in the home or taking protective action and taking them into care.