BETTER support for woman likely to suffer the repeat removal of children from their care could cost up to £1.65million over five years – but should result in significant financial and emotional savings.

Many of the women who have children removed from them by the council  and courts are the subject of domestic abuse, often the victims themselves of repeat offenders. Many also have substance abuse issues and suffer poor mental health.

Dorset Council has now backed a programme to help them saying it will improve their life chances and that of their children.

Cabinet members were told that the programme sought to work in a multi-agency way to respond to the needs of mothers, intervene to break the cycle and as a result reduce the number of children coming into the care of the council.

Education and children’s services portfolio holder Cllr Andrew Parry said the cumulative savings by avoiding the costs of additional care and other costs to society could amount to £5.8 million over the five-year contract period.

He said an exercise carried out earlier this year identified 51 Dorset women who have had, between them, 161 children removed from their care. Of these 84 per cent had experienced domestic abuse; 75 per cent have mental health issues; 57 per cent issues with drug mis-use and 31 per cent alcohol mis-use.

“The programme aims to give women the opportunity to pause and take control of their lives breaking a destructive cycle that causes both them and their children deep trauma,” said a report to the meeting.

“Their children are more likely to experience outcomes poorer than their peers including higher rates of criminality; sexual/criminal exploitation; substance misuse; suicide; poor mental health; become parents at a younger age and repeat the cycles of children into care.”

The report discovered that once children had been removed from a mother by the courts little was often done to offer support or to break the cycle leading to repeat removals of children into care.

Research shows that a quarter of women who experience the removal of a child through care proceedings will typically return to the family court for a further set of care proceedings within seven years.

Dorchester councillor Molly Rennie, the council’s domestic abuse ‘champion’ welcomed the decision to go ahead with the programme, describing the figures as “appalling”.

She said it was important not to judge the mothers who found themselves in the situation, that they were victims themselves: “they didn’t choose to get into that relationship to begin with,” she said.