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Take vulnerable children into care earlier, says think tank

29 June 2010

Delays in removing such children from their families are linked with poor mental health and behaviour, say researchers from the Demos think tank.

The research involved statistical analysis as well as interviews with foster parents, children in care and young people who had been in care. It found the state can pay nearly £33,000 more per child per year if they have received poor care.

It compared two extreme hypothetical 'care journeys' and found that the annual costs to children's services could be up to twice as much for a child who had experienced a lot of upheaval and change. The report says the state should be recognised as being capable of acting as a 'parallel parent' and the care system should be de-stigmatised and seen as a 'positive form of family support'.

Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo's, said: "Many believe that care is always second best to the care provided by parents. Contrary to popular belief, and for all its inadequacies, care does make things better and can and does create stable, nurturing environments for children.

"We must urgently adopt a more pro-active and positive use of care, one where care is used earlier and more effectively so it becomes a means of real cost avoidance."

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