Northumberland child protection orders increase

Progress is being made on the development of a regional adoption agency in the North East.
Progress is being made on the development of a regional adoption agency in the North East.

Answers are being sought over the concerning rise in children subject to protection plans in Northumberland, which is part of a pattern across the region.

Children are made subject to child protection plans (CPPs) if they have suffered significant harm, such as neglect, physical or sexual abuse, and are at continuing risk of this harm.

The latest figures show that the number of CPPs in Northumberland continues to rise and the county compares unfavourably to the rates nationally and in the North East – although other regional local authorities have also reported increases in recent months.

It was highlighted as a key concern in the authority’s latest safeguarding trends report, which was presented to the family and children’s services committee on Thursday (June 7).

The county council’s executive director of children’s services, Cath McEvoy, said: “We want to understand why it is in Northumberland that we have had such a significant rise in CPPs.”

Over the previous year, 513 children were made subject to a CPP – equating to 87 per 10,000, which is above the national rate of 56 and the regional rate of 79.

In the first quarter of 2018, 172 children were made subject to a new CPP, continuing an upward trend, which meant that at the end of March, a total of 393 children were subject to a CPP.

This equates to a rate of 67 per 10,000 of the under 18 population, which is above both the national rate of 43 and regional average of 61.

Just over half (262 cases) of the new CPPs started in the year ending March 2018 were due to neglect, 184 because of emotional abuse, 34 physical abuse, 17 sexual abuse and 16 multiple abuse types.

The new CPPs included 80 for unborn babies, 26 babies, 130 one to four-year-olds, 131 five to nine-year-olds, 128 10 to 15-year-olds and 18 who were 16 or over.

The meeting heard that Blyth was a particular hotspot for CPPs, along with other areas of south-east and central Northumberland, and that often there are large families which are in this situation generation after generation.

One of the key means of tackling this is early help or intervention to support new parents, but often people who may benefit only engage once social workers or other agencies are already involved.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service