Abuse of children is on the increase

Chris Pratt, the director of DMBC's Children and Young Person's Service. Picture: Liz Mockler D8089LM
Chris Pratt, the director of DMBC's Children and Young Person's Service. Picture: Liz Mockler D8089LM

CHILD abuse cases in the borough are on the increase, shocking new figures reveal.

In a chilling echo of the beginnings of the children’s services scandal which previously rocked Doncaster, social workers are having to cope with more cases of physical abuse of youngsters.

The revelations were presented at a full council meeting on Thursday at the Mansion House regarding Doncaster Council’s children’s services department which was previously taken over by the Government.

Peter Kemp, OBE, chairman of the borough’s children’s board has said that the number of children subject to a protection plan has gone up by nearly 50 in 12 months.

He said: “In safeguarding the numbers of children and young people subject to a multi-agency child protection plan in the 12 month period December 2010 to December 2011 increased from 392 to 439 with significant variations over the period.

“The majority of plans related to neglect though the last period saw an increase in physical abuse; the preponderance of neglect cases mirrors the national position.”

Mr Kemp also raised concerns about disruption to the lives of children in care caused by “placement changes.”

He added the stability of children in placements - such as children’s homes or foster parents had risen to 61 per cent, compared to 68 per cent nationally.

He said: “However, this figure needs to be sustained and improved over a longer period before we can be confident that children in care are leading more settled lives.”

In August 2008 the Free Press revealed that one in 200 of the borough’s under 18s was deemed to be at risk of abuse or neglect with 317 young people on the Child Protection Register. This was twice the national average.

That December we exposed the “chaotic and dangerous” situation in children’s services which lead to agencies missing ten chances to save the life of a child, known only as Baby A.

After it was revealed seven children known to social services had died the Government took over children’s services.

Mr Kemp said that following Government inspections of the service, “good progress” was being made.

He added that a new “Improvement Plan” is being drawn up following the review by the Department for Education to cover the period of April 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013.

Chris Pratt, director of the council’s Children and Young People’s Service, said: “As a result of good working and information sharing with our multi-agency partners, we know our child protection cases are being dealt with appropriately, timely and managed much more effectively compared to two years ago when services were very much broken and disorganised. This was also a key finding evidenced through our recent unannounced Ofsted inspection that looked at how well our services impact on minimising child abuse and neglect across the borough.

“Providing security and stability for children in care is vitally important, and is an area we are continually addressing.”

Carol Iddon, strategic director of children’s services for Action for Children, said: “Child neglect is a huge problem.”

She added that the charity had commissioned a report by Stirling University.

Ms Iddon said: “This study found that poverty, alcohol and substance misuse, inability to access local family support services and mental health issues are among key factors that can increase child neglect.”

She added the charity worked with families in Doncaster to offer guidance.