Number of children in care falls again
Thursday May 10, 2012
The number of children in care in Hammersmith & Fulham has fallen for the eighth year running – bucking the national trend.
Statistics from the Department for Education show that there are 223 ‘looked after children' in the borough. That compares to 248 in care in 2011, 260 in 2010 and 444 in 2004.
The impressive fall comes despite the council intervening in more cases where children were believed to be at risk of harm – with 51 new cases taken to court, compared to the previous year’s 35.
There are many reasons why some children are placed in care, according to the council. It might be that a child’s family needs help because of illness or because of concerns about the safety of a child. Living in care can include staying with foster parents, including relatives, or living in a residential care home.
Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council’s impressive results are in stark contrast with the rest of the country, where there are 65,520 looked after children according to figures from March 2011.
The council says the main reason for the reduction in the number of children in its care is due to its close working with families and early intervention work. The council also has an excellent track record of finding permanent carers for children and arranging for them to leave the care system under adoption, special guardianship or residence orders.
The council has the best record of all local authorities in the country for placing children with relatives under special guardianship orders over the past three years.
Last month, the council announced that it is working with two neighbouring councils in a groundbreaking national pilot to help speed up the family court process.
The new Care Proceedings Pilot involves a new agreement between H&F, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea councils and judges within the family court system to speed up proceedings. The councils have agreed to deliver their assessments more speedily and in return judges will place the child’s timescales at the heart of their decision making.
Cllr Helen Binmore, H&F Council cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Our early and close work with families, who may be experiencing difficulties, has helped reduce the number of children coming into our care.
“Stable and permanent placements are the key to a happy future and we take rapid action to ensure the welfare of children is put first. We have a strong track record of success in this area but we are not resting on our laurels and we are working with the courts and neighbouring boroughs to speed up care proceedings even further.
“We make sure children only stay in our care for the shortest possible time and find appropriate placements that allow them to fulfil their potential and offer the best start in life.”