Number Of Children On Risk Register Soars By 13%

Record numbers of young people are being put on the child protection register in Scotland, with an increase of 13 per cent in a year, a new report has revealed.

Figures show the number of referrals last year was nearly 12,000, compared with fewer than 8,000 in 1999 – one referral can involve more than one child.

Nearly half of all youngsters on local child protection registers in March were there because of physical neglect, according to a report by the Scottish Government.

Some 23 per cent were referred because of physical injury, 18 per cent because of emotional abuse and 9 per cent due to sexual abuse.

One per cent of those on the register were unborn children whose mothers had been referred to social services.

Sandra Brown, who runs the Moira Anderson Foundation, a charity that helps victims of abuse, said too many children were falling through the net.

“It is too easy for the government to say reporting mechanisms have improved and that’s why the numbers have gone up,” she said. “These cases of child abuse come up regularly and we’re always told that it will not happen again.”

There were 2,593 children on the child protection register on 31 March this year, a rise of 13 per cent compared with the previous year. The number of registrations as a result of emotional abuse was up by 26 per cent, and of physical neglect by 21 per cent; sexual abuse registrations were down 11 per cent.

Anne Houston, the chief executive of the charity Children 1st, said many youngsters in Scotland were growing up in vulnerable situations.

“We know that there are gaps in services that need to be addressed,” she said.

The report follows a number of high-profile cases in which children have been let down by the reporting system.

In 2003, the family of murdered Aberdeenshire infant Carla-Nicole Bone condemned as a “whitewash” a report that cleared care workers of any blame for her death. The 13-month-old girl’s grandparents said they were “appalled” by the findings of an investigation into her death at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend.

Alexander McClure picked up the child by the legs and repeatedly swung her against a wall, crushing her skull. He was jailed for life. Her grandparents claim that, in the months before the murder, they repeatedly warned social workers of the danger posed by McClure.

Last year, it emerged that a toddler who died after drinking methadone may not have been on the child protection register, despite both his parents being drug addicts. Derek Doran was found dead in his bed by his mother, Lisa Dodds, at their home in Elphinstone, East Lothian. It is thought he drank the heroin substitute, thinking it was a soft drink.

Scottish Government officials argued that, while the new figures appeared to show record numbers, this could just be down to a greater awareness of child abuse and a greater willingness to report it.

Adam Ingram, the children’s minister, said: “Being on the child protection register reduces the risks a child faces by making sure services work together to meet the child’s needs.”

But Elizabeth Smith, MSP, the Scottish Tories’ spokeswoman on children, said more lives would be blighted unless social work departments were given greater resources.

“Tragically, we can see symptoms of our broken society in these figures. The minister for children might want to put all this solely down to a better reporting system, but I’m afraid that doesn’t wash,” she said.