Number of children subject to child protection plans in Northumberland up 75% in two years
The number of children subject to protection plans in Northumberland has risen by almost 75% in the last two years, new figures show.
New national figures on children in need for 2018-19, which were published by the Department for Education (DfE) a fortnight ago, reveal that as of March 31 this year, 415 children in Northumberland were subject to child protection plans (CPPs).
This represents a rate of 70.3 per 10,000 children, noticeably above the North East average of 63.1. It is also an increase from the 391 children subject to CPPs at March 31, 2018, and the 234 the previous year.
Children are made subject to CPPs if they have suffered significant harm, such as neglect, physical or sexual abuse, and are at continuing risk of this harm.
However, the rise will not come as news to Northumberland County Council, with concerns about this issue raised at a family and children’s services committee meeting in June 2018 and again in July this year.
At the latter meeting, senior manager Alan Hartwell explained that the number of CPPs was relatively low in March 2017 before doubling by the end of last year.
Additional senior manager oversight of decisions was introduced, he reported, and the figure had started to reduce, falling by around 70 from December 2018 up until the summer.
The latest figures from the DfE also record the number of children in need, which is defined as a child who is unlikely to reach or maintain a satisfactory level of health or development, their health or development will be significantly impaired without the provision of services or the child is disabled.
And on this measure, the trend is downward in Northumberland, with 4,476 children having an episode of need during last year, down from 4,618 in 2017-18 and 4,727 the year before that.
The figures in 2018-19 and the previous year were also both below the North East average in terms of the rate per 10,000 children.
As of March 31 this year, 2,360 children in Northumberland were classed as in need, down from 2,692 on the same date in 2018 and 2,485 in 2017.
The biggest reason for children being in need this year was family dysfunction (887 – up from 541 the year before), followed by abuse or neglect (699 – down from 1,399).
Neglect was also the reason behind two-thirds of the CPPs starting in 2018-19, with around one-sixth being for emotional abuse and less than 10% each for either physical or sexual abuse.
Given this, tackling neglect remains one of the key priorities of the new Northumberland Strategic Safeguarding Partnership.
This organisation has replaced the Northumberland Safeguarding Children Board, whose final annual report – which actually covers the 18 months from April 2018 to September 2019 – was presented to Thursday’s (November 14) meeting of the county council’s health and wellbeing board.
The full list of priorities for 2019-20 is: Further promoting preventative and early help approaches; neglect; working with fathers; improving focus on the child’s experience of services and better embedding it in practice; the impact of domestic violence on children and young people; and child sexual and criminal exploitation, missing and gangs and groups, including county lines.
The meeting also discussed the ongoing national pressures in recruitment to social-work roles, with the council’s executive director of children’s services, Cath McEvoy-Carr, saying it was a ‘manageable risk currently’ in Northumberland.
As previously reported, the authority is working hard to ‘grow its own’ through its training academy, which is now onto its third cohort, with almost all of the social workers coming through that programme being retained.