A rise in numbers!

The family courts body received 10,199 new applications between April 2011 and March 2012, a 10.8% rise on the same period last year.” (Community Care).  There is no shock here [sadly] and no surprise either.  I say this because after reading another article on the Children Service’s blog I ordered a copy of the book quoted ‘Lost in Care‘.  Almost immediately it talks about the research undertaken for this book commissioned due to the large numbers of children coming into care (being greater than the previous years).

Although it is arguable that this surge in referrals has been in part, largely due to the death of baby Peter and the fear of this being repeated again.  It is sadly more likely to be due to the massive cuts in budgets for all organisations that work with family’s and children.  Resulting in catastrophic consequences for many families struggling to manage; leaving their children at risk of neglect and further abuse either intentionally or unintentionally.

Rightly so this is where the Government wants Social Care to be focusing its services towards.  Where ‘The Big Society’ should be picking up the gaps in the services that have been cut.  Which, as we are all aware has been an outstanding flop! coupled with the media’s often biased view creating a polarising effect for Social Workers who are trying to engage in early intervention, often finding [rightly] an unwillingness to engage because of fear of losing their child[ren].

Will there ever be an easy answer to solve the dilemma of the rising number of children coming into care? probably not if there continues to be an unwillingness to invest in Social Care – being either in early intervention (parenting classes, more midwives, health visitors and free childcare places) or a more advanced early intervention with CAMHS being able to have the funding to engage with families at an early stage rather than when the young person reaches a threshold so high that any work is unlikely to be meaningful to the family.  Or Social Workers who are trained to an even higher level who can carry out short term crisis work with the whole family before the crisis becomes a normal way of life for family’s leading to the removal of their child[ren].

However, social work continues to work to the principles as set out in the Children Act 1989 and 2004 working with the Children and Young People to prevent children coming into care.  While we wait to see how Social Care will be developed and changed as the Government tries to slimline a service that carry’s a greater expectation than any other organisation to produce results that will never please everyone.

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One response

  1. Was midway through a comment on this and my connection went down – in short, I think the law of unintended consequences means that the PLO (and specifically the idea of meeting with parents and telling them that you will issue proceedings unless they do X,Y and Z) is what has really driven up numbers – the Baby P bump is long gone.

    Anyway, here’s the age assessment case :-

    R (on the application of W) v CROYDON LONDON BOROUGH COUNCIL (2012)

    QBD (Admin) (Deputy High Court Judge Ockelton) 13/04/2012

    IMMIGRATION – CIVIL PROCEDURE – LOCAL GOVERNMENT

    AGE : ASYLUM SEEKERS : CHILDREN : CREDIBILITY : DECLARATIONS : LOCAL GOVERNMENT : UNACCOMPANIED MINORS : DECLARATIONS OF AGE : ADVERSE CREDIBILITY FINDINGS

    A court, on the basis of adverse credibility findings, made a declaration in rem that an allegedly unaccompanied minor from Afghanistan had in fact been over the age of 18 when he entered the United Kingdom.

    The claimant asylum seeker (W) applied for judicial review of the defendant local authority’s decision that he was over the age of 18.

    W was a national of Afghanistan. On W’s case, he had been born on January 16, 1995; had attended school when he was seven years old, just after the death of his father; had just started his fifth year of schooling when he left to undertake a one year tailoring course which he completed when he was just under 12 years old. W then worked in a tailor shop for one to two years, after which he had begun a relationship with a girl. W’s mother tongue was Dari. W illegally entered the United Kingdom from Calais. The refusal of W’s asylum claim was confirmed on appeal by an immigration judge who, however, accepted his age claim. W was subsequently interviewed by the local authority, who assessed him as being over the age of 18 in April 2010. The local authority had, however, conceded that W had been interviewed in Pashto rather than his native Dari, but that a decision not to reschedule had been taken as W had seemed to manage. In the instant proceedings, W relied on the consistency of the evidence he had given on several occasions to assert his credibility, and on three documents: a birth letter from the hospital where he was born, attesting his date of birth; an incomplete identity document without any fingerprints or date of birth, and a document that had been issued at the end of W’s tailoring course which included W’s claimed date of birth. The issue was whether W was, or had been, in the local authority’s area when he was under 18 years of age.

    HELD: (1) The court’s task was to assess W’s age on the material available; there was no burden on W to show that the local authority’s decision had been wrong, and the court was not confined to choosing between two competing positions. A decision regarding W’s age could result in a declaration in rem, with the consequence that the decision could not be relitigated, R. (on the application of S) v Croydon LBC [2011] EWHC 2091 (Admin) applied. Where the court was required to assess a person’s age, it was its task, despite having no relevant positive evidence, to progress through guesswork, instinct or judicial talent, R. (on the application of CJ) v Cardiff City Council [2011] EWCA Civ 1590, [2012] C.P. Rep. 15 followed. (2) The court was perfectly sure that W was not telling the truth about his age. Firstly, there was a discrepancy between the copious details W had provided in relation to his work history, and the paucity of details in his evidence regarding his age. W’s evidence in relation to his date of birth had been repetitive when asked, for example, to give details about his journey to the UK, and why he had given his age as 16 to French authorities. There was a difference between consistency born of recitation and from the evidence itself; W’s evidence had all the hallmarks of a performer who was unwilling to depart from, or expand, a learned story. Although it was possible that there had been sufficient intelligibility between Dari and Pashto, one remarkable feature of W’s evidence to the local authority’s social worker had been that he had been able to provide the same consistent account. Secondly, W’s claimed complete ignorance of the passage of time was entirely implausible; W’s case that his only references to the passing of time, and thus his age, had been through occasional information from others, and that he had been entirely unconscious about his age and the passage of time was to be rejected. W’s evidence of having asked the girl with whom he had had a relationship her age was entirely inconsistent with W’s claimed attitude to his own age; in fact, W had let his mask slip in an interview and admitted he had been 15 at the time of that relationship. Finally, a further factor casting real doubt in W’s story was biodata that had been collected in Greece before he claimed to have left Afghanistan which, as unchallenged, there was no real basis to doubt. (3) W’s written evidence added little to his oral evidence and consisted of unattested hearsay of the evidence of its contents; the identity document gave, for example, incorrect information and did not provide W’s date of birth and there was real doubt about W’s birth letter, which was highly unlikely to have been in W’s family’s possession before the identity document was obtained, and there was no evidence as to how it might have been obtained subsequently, and no evidence regarding how the information on the birth letter might have been obtained years later. The documents W relied on did not help to prove W’s age. (4) The court made a declaration in rem that W had been over the age of 18 when he entered the UK and that his date of birth was July 10 1990.

    Application refused

    Counsel:
    For the claimant: Shu Luh Shin
    For the defendant: Rhys Hadden

    Solicitors:
    For the defendant: In house

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