Children in care figure tops 10,000
The annual number of new applications to take children into care has passed the 10,000 mark for the first time, new figures have shown.
Councils in England launched 886 legal proceedings to remove at-risk youngsters from their families in March, taking the 12-month total to 10,199.
The very high numbers demonstrate the continuing impact of the Baby P tragedy on local authorities since full details of the case were made public in November 2008.
Cafcass, the agency which looks after children's interests in the family courts, said the figures showed that agencies were working more quickly to remove vulnerable youngsters from damaging households.
Total new care applications between April 2011 and March 2012 were up 10.8% from 9,202 in the same period in 2010-11 - and soared 57.2% from the 2008-09 tally of 6,488.
Cafcass chief executive Anthony Douglas said: "This is the first time care demand figures have broken the 10,000 mark over a 12-month period. These consistently high figures for the year have really tested the resilience of our staff and our systems, but we have continued to be a strong organisation that serves the best interests of children.
"While Cafcass gathers this information and is of course impacted by the scale of this increase, all agencies need to realise we have to change the way we work collectively if the most vulnerable children in the country are to continue to receive strong public services in these tough times.
"Having said that, this rise shows that all agencies are working more quickly to ensure that children are removed from deeply damaging households where many have been for some time and are showing a lower tolerance for poor parenting."
Barnardo's deputy chief executive Jane Stacey said: "While the increase in the number of children being referred into care might seem alarming, I am pleased that decisions are being made more quickly to remove children from damaging situations. We must intervene early to support parents but where this is not effective, action must be taken.
"Care can and does improve the lives of vulnerable children. This is why it is essential that we ensure that there are more foster or adoptive parents available to provide them with a stable and loving home."