An 8% rise in the number of children on child protection registers in Wales over the last year is making “severe demands” on social work resources according to ADSS Cymru.
By 31 March 2009 there were 2,510 children, including unborn children known to social services, on child protection registers in Wales compared with 2,320 at the same point the previous year.
Neglect was the most common cause of a child being placed on the register, in 48% of cases, while sexual abuse was the least common cause, stated in 9% of cases. Around one-third of children on child protection registers were aged one to four (32%).
Wales, unlike England, decided to retain child protection registration, making comparative analysis of the rise “difficult”, according to Parry Davies, joint policy lead, children and families, ADSS Cymru.
Davies put the increase in registrations down to “a product of increased demand generally which pre dates Baby P.”
“The indications are that the actual cases are more complex, ICS is more time consuming, and although anecdotal the public law outline may well be a significant factor in the increase in child protection registrations and local authority cases,” he said.
Tony Young, vice chair, All Wales Heads of Children’s Services, ADSS Cymru said: “Higher levels of registration may indicate a higher level of proactive intervention; an increase in the extent to which children are being exposed to risk; a higher level of anxiety by referring agencies…or a combination of all these things.
“This increase is making severe demands on social work resources and caseloads, which in itself stretches our ability to support children at risk or in need in general,” Young said.
Shadow health minister Andrew RT Davies said the rise was likely to be the result of a “combination of factors”, including services re-evaluating cases in the wake of high profile tragedies, and professionals across social care, education and health becoming “more in tune with the tell-tale signs that immediate action should be taken.”
“The safety of vulnerable children is absolutely critical, particularly in the wake of the Baby P case. We should never underestimate the gravity of the decision to place a child on a protection register, but if it is in their best interests we have to make those decisions,” Davies said.