COUNCIL staff have been challenged to provide reassurances that the huge rise in the number of youngsters on the Child Protection Register will be addressed.
Flintshire councillors met with children’s services staff who reported an increase in the number of children appearing on the register between March 2013 and December 2013, from 58 to 158.
Following a decline in previous years, members of Flintshire Council’s social and health care overview and scrutiny committee learned this was the highest number for at least three years.
In a report to members, Neil Ayling, Flintshire Council’s director of community services, said the decline to a low of 58 at the end of March 2013 had partly been due to the deregistration of several large sibling group families.
As of December, 72 children were on the register due to ‘neglect’, while 47 were recorded under ‘physical harm’, 23 for ‘emotional harm’, 10 for ‘sexual harm’ and six under a mixture of issues.
Mr Ayling added: “The significant numbers of children experiencing emotional harm only are often due to the impact of living within a home where domestic violence or abuse is a factor, although it is acknowledged that all forms of abuse against children will include an element of emotional abuse.”
In total, there were 828 referrals to children’s services in 2013 – 605 of them child protection referrals.
Head of children’s social services Carol Salmon said removing a child from its home was “a step we don’t take lightly.
“The numbers have increased but the majority are made by family court due to compromised parenting,” she said. “We believe we do our very best.”
Flintshire councillor and former family magistrate Cllr Ian Dunbar said he had personally had the task of putting children into care.
“It’s not a nice thing to do,” he said, “but one of those that need to be done. Our children are our utmost priority.
“But this is a trend that needs to be remedied,” he added.
“How is Flintshire Council going to try and remedy this? What are we going to be doing?”
Fieldwork services senior manager Ray Dickson told members that numbers on the register were down from 158 to 126 with an additional 18 temporarily registered.
But he said numbers were “still increasing” with 90 per cent of referrals being child protection referrals.
However he said the council believed it had “a system that is dealing more effectively” with cases.
From 138 investigations in the last quarter, 19 had proceeded to a case conference.
“The system is more robust in terms of prevention,” said Mr Dickson. “In terms of looked after children, we are seeing an increase but we believe the number is correct.”