The real scandal remains the ever-increasing number of children taken from their parents.
David Cameron showed himself a little bit short on the big picture when referring in his conference speech to the “65,000 children in care”, clearly unaware that this relates only to England (the total across the UK is more than 90,000).
More importantly, he used this to promote the currently fashionable campaign to get more children from care adopted, after the figure dropped last year by five per cent.
What he seemed unaware of was that applications by social workers to take children into care have soared this year to all-time record levels, having doubled in the past four years to nearly 900 a month. One of several reasons why it takes so much longer to get children adopted is that so many parents attempt to fight through the courts to keep children who should never have been taken from them in the first place.
The really disturbing story is the number of children that social workers are now removing from loving and responsible parents to be placed, often very unhappily, with foster carers, who receive up to £400 a week for each child. In one case I have often reported here, six children taken from their parents last year are languishing miserably in foster homes, at a cost to the taxpayer of £120,000 a year. In 2009/10, according to the Family Justice Review, the “total local authority spend on looked-after children in England and Wales was around £3.4 billion”.
If Mr Cameron was aware of just what misery is being caused to parents and children by the way this astonishingly costly system has too often gone off the rails, he might find a cause even more appropriate for his crusading zeal than the need to reverse a slight drop in the rate of adoptions.
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