Number of children in care in Northumberland continues to fall - bucking regional trend
The number of children in care in Northumberland continues to fall, bucking the regional trend and representing the lowest rate in the North East.
At the end of May this year, there were 367 looked-after children in the county, which equates to 62 per 10,000 of the under 18 population. This is in line with the national rate of 64, but well below the 95 seen regionally.
However, at the same point, 405 children in Northumberland were subject to child protection plans (CPPs) – for those who have suffered significant harm, such as neglect, physical or sexual abuse, and are at continuing risk of this harm.
This represents 69 per 10,000 of the child population, above the national rate of 45 and regional average of 66.
At a meeting of the county council’s family and children’s services committee, senior manager Alan Hartwell, explained that the number of CPPs was relatively low in March 2017 before doubling by the end of last year.
Since then, additional senior manager oversight of decisions has been introduced and the figure has started to reduce, falling by around 70 from December 2018 until now.
Among the other issues Mr Hartwell highlighted from the latest safeguarding trends report was the fact that the number of cases coming into children’s social services has dropped by around 400 over the past year, which was anticipated as efforts were made around better use of early help.
“Northumberland does still see relatively high levels of demand,” he said, particularly when compared to the national average, but the county ‘is not an outlier’ in the region.
Coun Deirdre Campbell, however, was not satisfied with the picture painted by the report, saying that poverty was at the root of these issues.
Richard Woolhouse, a teaching union representative on the committee, said: “I do share concerns, but it looks like a very positive report.
“When Cath (McEvoy-Carr, executive director of children’s services) arrived, she wanted to bring in early intervention and that appears to be working.
“My worry in the current climate is that people think, ‘that’s working so we can spend less money’.”
Assurances were made that this and other concerns about cost-cutting were not the case.