Worries over huge rise in child protection referrals in ‘wealthy’ county
Concern is mounting after it emerged that one of Wales’ most prosperous counties has seen an 82% rise in child-protection referrals in just 12 months.
In 2009-10, Monmouthshire County Council received 739 referrals, but the total rose to 1,343 in 2010-11.
A referral is defined as a new request for services where a case is not already open. The authority then makes a decision about what to do next – whether the child needs to be assessed by a social worker, whether the request should be referred to another agency or whether no further action is needed.
Labour councillor Armand Watts said: “I am extremely concerned about this massive rise, and more so because the council does not seem to know why the increase has occurred.
There was a big increase the previous year too, from fewer than 400 cases, he said.
“I believe that families are under much greater pressure because of the state of the economy. Although most people in the rest of Wales regard Monmouthshire as a wealthy county, there are pockets of severe deprivation. I believe it is essential that more resources are provided to the social services department to ensure that families receive the support they need at times like this.”
A spokesman for the council said: “There has been a substantial and well documented rise in referrals to children’s social care departments throughout the UK over the past few years. Monmouthshire County Council is no different, although we have made an excellent job of dealing with this increased workload.
“Crucially, despite the rise in referrals, the number of children and young people we work with who cannot remain at home with their families has remained fairly constant. And although referrals nearly doubled in the last year, we have been able to increase the percentage of the referrals that we process within one working day to 98.1%.
“… We have changed the way we manage and log information within the department, improved our early intervention work and improved our relationships with other professionals at work in the county.
“On a UK wide level, there has of course been a rise in awareness of child protection issues – prompted by a number of high profile tragedies.”
Statistics from other Welsh counties are being collated by the Local Government Data Unit and will be published later this year.
Meanwhile figures from the NSPCC show that the number of serious child abuse cases referred to police or social services by the NSPCC reached an all-time high last year.
NSPCC counsellors referred 16,385 serious cases to police or social services across the in 2010/11, which is 37% higher than the previous year.
More than one in three of these cases involved families previously unknown to local authorities.
The charity attributed the rise to better public awareness of child abuse. Head of the NSPCC Helpline John Cameron said that more effective intervention in child cruelty cases was needed and he urged people to report swiftly any concerns about a child being maltreated.
“We must pick up on children’s problems as early as we can to stop their abuse.
“Social workers cannot be in the community all the time.
“But members of the public can be their eyes and ears,” he said.
“The increase in referrals over the last year shows more people want to play their part in keeping children safe.”
The number of cases of suspected child neglect increased by 81%, up from 3,562 to 6,438 cases, the NSPCC added.
A further 4,113 cases of reported physical abuse, 1,520 cases of sexual abuse and 2,932 cases of emotional abuse were also referred to police or social services, the figures showed.
A total of 46% of those who contacted the helpline had their concerns passed on to the authorities, up from 39% the previous year.
The figures follow a recent NSPCC survey of 2,275 children aged 11-17 which found that one in five said they had been seriously physically or sexually abused or neglected at some point during childhood.