‘At risk’ numbers rise after Baby P uproar

THE number of children being placed on the “at-risk” register by social services has leapt in the wake of the Baby P tragedy, it has emerged.

A staggering 300 young people were put on the register in Cardiff between January and October – a jump of a third.

The figures, which were released to the South Wales Echo under the Freedom of Information Act, show that in January alone 43 children were put on the “at-risk” register.

The January figure was a rise of 79% from January 2008 while the total figure for the past 10 months rose by 33% from 226 children put on the register in the same period a year ago.

Cardiff council has said the Baby P case has also driven up the number of referrals its social services teams have received by 26% this year from 746 to 939 and put the authority’s budget under pressure.

Children are categorised as “at risk” if they have suffered ill-treatment or bad health as a result of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect.

A child can also be placed on the register in cases where abuse or neglect is deemed to be likely.

The action available to children’s services is detailed in an outlined plan at the child protection case conference once a decision has been made to register the child.

Emyr Owen, of the British Association of Social Workers Cymru, said: “The number of children placed on the at-risk register in any authority varies from year to year due to a number of factors and the reasons behind children being placed on the register also varies greatly.

“Social workers can provide additional support to families on the register to help children to stay safe and healthy and when children are no longer at risk they are removed from the register.”

He alluded to high profile cases such as Baby P, which have painted a dire picture of social services.

“Social work is a complex and skilled profession that is often greatly misunderstood by the public and some of the most tragic and high profile cases that have been reported in the media has led to an increase in this misunderstanding,” he said.

“Some of the most vulnerable adults and children in our communities are supported by social workers so that they can achieve the most they can from their lives.”

The number of referrals also appears to have increased over the past five years, with a 28% rise from 235 children in 2004. The difference is likely to be even higher once figures for November and December are released.

Colette Limbrick, who is the NSPCC assistant director for South Wales, said: “There may be a combination of factors behind what is happening here.

“Child welfare rightly continues to be high in the minds of the public and professionals. One element might be that if the public feels more comfortable about spotting and reporting concerns, we may well see figures such as these increasing.

“Talking to someone can, and will, help protect children. The earlier that happens the better.”