2,018 babies taken into care

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A HUGE rise has taken place in the number of babies taken by social services from ‘Troubled Families’.

Figures compiled by the University of Lancaster show that 2,018 babies were taken from their mothers as at birth in 2013, compared with 802 in 2008 – an increase of 251%. Most babies would have been taken into care at the hospital, the report said, and only about 10% of those removed at birth will be returned to their mothers at the end of care proceedings.

Meanwhile the Tory government has launched an offensive to privatise social care services. Under the plan, social services departments judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted will be given just six months to improve or face being taken over by ‘high-performing councils’ and ‘charities’.

The privatisation process is well underway, some councils already labelled as ‘failing’ are now run by trusts. But the new measures that the Tories are introducing will see the existing process ‘speeded up’. Where departments ‘fail to improve’ within six months of a poor Ofsted inspection, a new ‘commissioner’ will be appointed and ‘experts in child protection’ sent in.

This has sparked fears that even more babies will be taken at birth, as social services become under increasing pressure to ‘perform’. In 2011 PM Cameron launched his ‘Troubled Families’ intervention programme. Under the programme working class families are targeted. 2% of families in England, roughly 117,000, are classed by the government as ‘Families with Multiple Problems’ (FMP).

This meant that they fell into at least five of the following seven categories:

• No parent in the family is in work

• Family lives in poor quality or overcrowded housing

• No parent has any qualifications

• Mother has mental health problems

• At least one parent has a longstanding limiting illness, disability or infirmity

• Family has low income (below 60% of the median)

• Family cannot afford a number of food and clothing items.

If the family does not respond to the intervention or refuses to participate, their children are taken into custody of the social services. About half of the babies in the study were taken from mothers who have already had children in care and a third were teenage mums.

This means that a woman can become pregnant, have her child taken at birth, become pregnant again and as soon as the new baby is born, it too is taken into care. The lead researcher of the study Prof Karen Broadhurst said the number of newborns taken into care was ‘disproportionately increasing’.

The figures, compiled for the first time using original family court records, show a total of 13,248 babies were taken into care between 2007 and 2014 at birth or shortly after. Prof Broadhurst added: ‘As you have more babies removed, the desire to replace the lost baby becomes stronger.’