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Child protection costs ‘threaten local councils’ financial stability’

Failure to support families at risk and reduce pressure on the care system will lead to child protection services becoming financially unsustainable, the chair of an expert care review group has warned.

Nigel Richardson, a former director of children’s services at Leeds city council, said that the struggle to cope with the rapid surge in children being taken into care at a time when budgets were shrinking could tip some councils into financial crisis.

Launching the Care Crisis Review on Wednesday, Richardson called on ministers to make up a £2bn shortfall in children’s social services and create a multi-million pound fund to give councils the breathing space to find ways of reducing pressure on the system.

The care crisis review outlines how local authorities are under huge media and political pressure to intervene in families, despite council budgets halving over the past seven years, and despite concern that in some cases the risk is not serious enough to justify children being taken from their parents.

In May the children and family court advisory and support service (Cafcass) recorded 1,302 care applications, the second highest figure in its history, just behind the record 1,329 filed in June 2017. It costs about £35,000 a year to look after a child in care.

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