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Report calls for government to better understand repeat removals

The ‘Never More Than Once’ report says the government needs to better understand the scale of repeat removals and respond to birth parents’ needs.

23/10/23

Report calls for government to better understand repeat removals

Repeat removals are a “hidden but prevalent” issue across England, a new report has said.

Repeat removals – where families experience the removal of their child(ren) into the care system on more than one occasion – represent almost half of all newborns who are subject to care proceedings were born to mothers who previously went through care proceedings regarding an older sibling.

Pause, a charity that works with women who have had more than one child removed from their care, says that this process is not inevitable, saying the government could ‘break the cycle’, by approaching support services and children’s social care policy through the lens of birth parents.

Jules Hillier, Chief Executive of Pause, says the women they work with have difficult and often dangerous lives, but understanding and meeting their needs could improve outcomes.

“Some [of the women we work with] grew up in care themselves and all have been through care proceedings and had a child removed from their care – one of the most invasive, traumatic interventions a state can make into family life – after which they are completely dropped by services. We see women stuck in a terrible cycle of repeated pregnancies that result in a child being removed. More must be done to understand and meet the needs of this group of women.”

In the last ten years, the number of children entering care has risen by more than a fifth (21%). The charity says ending the cycle of repeat removals could reduce the number of children entering care, avoiding trauma for families, and saving money to the public purse.

There is currently no statutory obligation to deliver post-removal support to all birth parents. This means that after the removal of a child, many birth parents are left struggling to cope with preexisting difficulties, which may escalate, while facing the additional trauma of losing a child. It is at this point at which a cycle can start (or continue). Many parents who have had children removed from their care will go on to have more children removed in the future.

The charity cites evidence that sustained investment in trauma-informed support services for birth parents not only benefits women, but also decreases the number of children entering the care system and delivers savings to the public purse.

The charity is calling on the government to improve data collection on the rates of recurrent care proceedings. They also recommend an improved recognition of the role of birth parents and provide coordinated and accessible support for families through Family Help.

Helen Lincoln, Chair of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) Families, Communities and Young People Policy Committee, said this earlier support can be vital but is often hampered by limited local authority resources.

“The earlier we work with and support vulnerable children and families, including parents who have already had their child taken into care, the more chance we have of sustaining families, helping them overcome the issues they face and preventing the repeat removal of children in care which can be retraumatising for birth parents.

“However, since 2010 local authorities have seen their funding significantly reduced, which has led to tough decisions about scaling back services and non-statutory services have been hardest hit by cuts.

“ADCS continues to call for a long term, equitable funding solution for children’s services to enable local authorities to support all children and families at the earliest opportunity.”

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