‘Deeply worrying’ rise in children on protection list

A children’s charity has described a big rise in the number of children being placed on the child protection register as “deeply worrying”.

The 6% increase in the number of children being placed on the register was revealed by figures released by the Welsh Government.

It represents a rate of 46 children per 10,000 aged under 18.

There were 1,500 boys, 1,400 girls and 10 unborn children on the registers as of March 31 this year, and 45% of the children were aged under five.

There were huge variations between local authorities, with Monmouthshire registering the largest increase at 67% – with 60 children on the register this year, compared to 35 in 2010. Torfaen Council saw a 54% rise and Bridgend registered a 42% rise.

The biggest fall came from Merthyr Tydfil, dropping from 90 cases in 2010 to 60 this year, down 30%.

Children in Wales – an umbrella body for Welsh children’s charities – said the spike in referrals was a trend that had continued for a decade.

Sean O’Neill, policy director of Children in Wales, said: “The latest increase in the number of children on the child protection register in Wales is deeply worrying and should be a huge concern to us all.

“The trend over the past 10 years is firmly upwards and is a sharp reminder of the need to invest in early preventative services – especially those for the under-fives.

“As the cuts to local budgets begin to bite, we must not lose vital services which support vulnerable children and their families, particularly during times of greatest need.”

The highest number of registrations involved neglect (47%) and the lowest in categories of sexual abuse (7%), although some registrations may state more than one reason.

The increases come in the aftermath of the Baby P scandal which ushered in greater focus on child welfare monitoring and demands greater social worker time and workload.

Barnardo’s Cymru warned that there was a “heavy strain” on local authorities and called for assurances on the resources for social workers, while welcoming the figures as evidence of greater vigilance on child protection issues.

Matthew Hunt, assistant director of operations at Barnardo’s Cymru, said: “Today’s figures show that the sharp rise in referrals after baby Peter’s death has not been reversed. “This should be welcomed as evidence of the public and professionals increasingly alerting the authorities to issues that concern them about the welfare and safeguarding of children.”

But Mr Hunt warned that it was “crucial” that people in contact with children remained “vigilant” – and that social services had the resources they need to intervene if there was a risk of child neglect or abuse.

Vanessa Glenn, head of children’s services at Monmouthshire council, said: “The reasons underpinning the actual increase in the numbers of children on the child protection register are complex and include an increased focus with our partner agencies upon domestic violence, adult mental health and substance misuse.”

A spokeswoman for Bridgend Council said that the figures demonstrated “rigorous processes” in place in Bridgend for early identification of children considered to be at risk of harm.