Children in care numbers soar

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Record numbers of children are being taken into care because social workers have become frightened of taking risks in the wake of the Baby Peter scandal.

Figures released yesterday show that applications for children to be taken into care have doubled in the past year. Cafcass, the children's court agency, said the rise was partly caused by some social workers referring "lower level concerns" in case they make a mistake by "under-reacting".

But the organisation warned that the rapid increase of cases was placing a great strain on the system, as its staff were now working round the clock to meet the demand.

Some 784 applications were filed in June this year, more than double the 368 cases in June 2008. This is the highest care demand figure recorded in any month by Cafcass, which represents children's interests in the family courts.

In August – the month the media was allowed to reveal Peter died at the hands of his mother, Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend Steven Barker and his brother Jason Owen – 671 applications were made, compared to 491 in August 2008.

Anthony Douglas, the organisation's chief executive, said: "While the rise in applications is good news for children who need protection, the child care system will need to gear up to support these much higher volumes."

* Yesterday, police said a boy, 11, had died after being found hanged at his care home. Dylan McDonald, from Kirkby, was found at the Appletree Residential School, Cumbria, on Wednesday.