Derbyshire: Quarter more children on protection plans

There has been a large rise in the numer of Derbyshire children who need protecting
There has been a large rise in the numer of Derbyshire children who need protecting

The number of Derbyshire children who need protecting against abuse or neglect is approaching 1,000.

The figure has risen by nearly a quarter in just a year, to 916.

Figures published by the county council show that in 2016 there were 741 children on protection plans.

However, this figure has now risen by 23.6 per cent.

Children are put on protection plans because of neglect or sexual, physical or emotional abuse.

The majority of children subject to protection plans continue living with their parents.

A separate category is children deemed so at risk they have been taken into care by the authority.  The number of children in care in the county is now around 720.

Neither of these figures includes Derby city.

A small group of children may be both in care and in a protection plan while they transition from one to the other, but this would be for a short period of time – the two are separate groups.

The majority of children who are in care are living with foster carers.

Some are in residential children’s homes or in other supported accommodation.

Meanwhile, others may also be living with their families, yet still be in the county council’s care.

A child protection plan is drawn up by a local authority – such as Derbyshire County Council.

It sets out how the child can be kept safe, how things can be made better for the family and what support they will need.

In most cases, the child remains with their family or carers, but with the additional safeguarding conditions agreed upon within the protection plan.

Emotional abuse accounts for the vast majority of cases (60 per cent), with a rise from 488 in 2016 to 550 in 2017.

But the number of children on protection plans due to physical abuse has almost tripled from 32 in 2016 to 81 in 2017.

Neglect accounts for 248 of the current protection plans, up more than a quarter from 183 (26 per cent), while sexual abuse is the cause of 37 plans, down one from 38.

In the Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Board Annual Report, published alongside the figures above, a spokesman said: “The numbers of children and young people who are subject to child protection plans has continued to rise during the course of the year.

“The DSCB has commissioned an independent social care expert to review the operation of child protection conferences to ensure that these are as effective as they can be and the plans developed for children provide the most effective protection for them.

“The work is due to be completed in 2018.

“The effective identification of the risk of the abuse is one of the areas that is being actioned through this programme.”

If, following investigations by a child protection conference, it is decided that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, the local authority will draw up a child protection plan.

It will name a group of professionals and family members who will develop the plan and put it into practice and the social worker who is responsible for coordinating the group to lay out steps needed to safeguard the child.

These must be specific and measurable and set out the services needed for the child’s wellbeing to be protected.

The child’s wishes and feelings are also taken into account in a variety of ways.

This could include, for example, regular visits by social workers to the family home to offer practical or emotional support.

The number of children in care in Derbyshire has risen from a low of 585 in 2015 – and this is thought to be,  say council officers, one the main reasons for the county council’s children’s services overspend of £6.8 million.

This is out of the council’s total children’s services budget for 2018-19 of £98.7 million.

A spokesperson said: “The numbers of children in care have stabilised since December and have been between 710 and 720 children during that period, following a rise between December 2016 and December 2017 of approximately 80 children.

“The increase in the number of children on protection plans and in council care is reflected in national statistics, not just in Derbyshire.

“The drivers for an increase in numbers are complex and no single factor appears to be behind this.

 “In Derbyshire, we recommend that anyone who has a concern about a child should telephone the police on 101 or Call Derbyshire on 01629 533 190.”

Meanwhile, the number of children going missing from home or care overnight is currently falling. In 2014 the figure was 326 but it was 225 as of June 2017, a drop of 30 per cent.

The number of children deemed to be “in need” – one stage below a protection plan – has also fallen from 3,574 in March 2016 to 3,048 in March 2017.

This reduction, compared to the number of children on protection plans, may be caused by an increase in eligibility, the report states, with more kids fitting the criteria required for the plan.

It also says that greater awareness and identification of child protection issues may have caused this decline or that care is being provided to children before they are assigned plans.

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service