THE number of children taken into care in Burnley has almost trebled in two years – the biggest rise in the Lancashire County Council area.

In 2011, 54 children were taken into local authority care, but last year the figure had risen to 134.

County social services chiefs are now analysing the data to identify the reasons behind the sharp rise.

LCC and the police are also establishing a special Early Action Response centre in Burnley after identifying a growing number of families where swift action could avoid later problems.

The latest figures from the county council show in Rossendale the number of children taken into local authority care rose from 22 in 2011 to 39 in 2013.

Pendle saw an increase from 68 to 80 while the joint Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley area saw a rise from 50 children in 2011 to 69 in 2013.

This contrasts with Blackburn with Darwen Council statistics where the number of children taken into care fell from 155 in 2011 to 123 last year .

The authority, which is separate from the county council, has been working on a policy of early intervention with families potentially facing crisis.

It traditionally has had the highest numbers of children being taken into care in East Lancashire but has now been overtaken by Burnley.

County social services chiefs, who undertook a major review of its response to child neglect in 2012, are examining variations in figures, in particular Burnley.

Areas looked at include the level of police referrals, whether taking several siblings into care from the same families had affected the figures, the impact of new groups of people coming into Burnley, the effect of high teenage pregnancy rates in the borough, and whether there were statistical quirks affecting the figures.

They are also examining how the impact of high-levels of deprivation, benefit changes, jobs losses and the effect of recession on wage levels contributed to higher than average increases in Burnley and the county’s two other main urban centres, Preston and Lancaster.

These two cities will also get Early Action Response teams this summer as part of a £6 million LCC/Police investment. All three were identified as ‘high-demand areas’.

LCC children’s care director Ann Pennell, said: "We carried out our own research into neglect in 2012 and introduced a new strategy last year, praised by Ofsted in a recent report.

“We are constantly analysing the figures for children in care across the county, including Burnley, to better understand the factors involved.

“The numbers of children in care have been rising nationally over the past few years.

"Rates vary from district to district and high levels of poverty and disadvantage, faced by some communities in Burnley, inevitably play a part.

"Our priority is always the safety and protection of children and young people.”

County children’s boss Matthew Tomlinson said: “I am confident that the people we take into care are the right ones and we are doing it for the right reasons.

“That's why we are placing such importance on tracking these and other figures so that we know where to focus our services, including the new Early Action Response Service, which will have a base in Burnley."

Burnley borough leader Julie Cooper said: “The figures are very distressing.

“I think they result from the number of families being pushed into desperate situations. They just can’t cope anymore.

“People are becoming unemployed, becoming depressed, and families are breaking down, and as a result, children pay the price.”

One child protection social worker said: “If there have been services shut down, people are not getting the right help. Neglect is going to increase when people are poorer.

“The majority of the people that we work with are from deprived backgrounds, and that just exacerbates everything else.”

Tom Rahilly, head of strategy for Looked After Children at the NSPCC, said: “There may be a combination of factors behind what is happening here. Most children enter care as a result of abuse or neglect.

“A rise in the numbers entering should not be seen as a bad thing. However, we need to understand the reasons behind the change and identify how we can provide better early help for children and families to tackle this trend.”