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Costs, Cuts and Care

by Harvey Gallagher

Depending on which figures you use, children's social care in England has been hit by something like a 25% cut in the last year. That would have a huge impact even if done in a planned, transparent way based on good evidence. But the pressure is on to cut spending now, today, this year. What I think we've seen for young people in care is that the bad practice that has always been around in some form in a small number of places, and that we don't ever seem able to be able to eradicate completely, is growing again.


In recent weeks there has been, unusually, quite a lot of press coverage about the care system. We have had the concern about the bureaucracy of the adoption system; yet another report from the Fostering Network about the shortage of foster carers, and the distressing case in Rochdale where at least one of the victims appears to have been targeted because of their care status. And there has been a rapid response by the Government with an announcement of legislation on adoption and the Minister announcing a review of children’s homes to ensure they can properly protect children from exploitation.


The main reason for the increasing numbers of children entering care during the last four years has been attributed to the ‘Baby Peter effect’ – or social workers being less likely to take risks, with the damming indictment of them removing children unnecessarily from families and indulging in organisational and self protection. This ‘effect’ may have had a very short term impact, as evidence from previous high profile child abuse case has shown, but is unlikely to have been sustained over four years. More likely explanations are threefold.