NSPCC warning over child register stats

THE number of children on the child protection register in Suffolk has risen by around 100 in the last two years - but the NSPCC last night warned the figure could be “just the tip of the iceberg."

THE number of children on the child protection register in Suffolk has risen by around 100 in the last two years - but a spokesman for the NSPCC has warned it could be “just the tip of the iceberg.”

Suffolk County Council last night confirmed the number of youngsters placed on the child protection register has risen steadily in the last couple of years from around 300 to around 400.

And it said that part of the reason for the increase was that there were now more children whose welfare was in danger in the county, as well as reflecting a greater number of staff to help protect youngsters.

The figures were released after the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) gave its grave warning, referring to a figure of 305.

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It said its helpline received an average of 16 calls from people in the county every day because they were so concerned about children.

A county council spokesman said: “Suffolk County Council, with our partner agencies, has invested in better training and in improving our understanding of what situations can put children at serious risk of harm.

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“One specific reason for an increase in children on the register is our acting on a change in the law: now social care staff must be involved when there is domestic violence between adults when the children are present.

“Also, as the council has invested in preventative work with families, we are able to identify situations earlier where children are at risk.

“Members of the public are increasingly helping to report suspected neglect or abuse of children. We would encourage anyone to report any suspicions they have, knowing it will be taken seriously.”

The latest annual figures from the NSPCC show its helpline received 5,918 calls from people in the county who were concerned about a child during 2004, while there were 305 children on the child protection register in March of the same year.

Lee Mitchell, area children's services manager responsible for East Anglia, said: “Young people are only on the child protection register if there are significant, unresolved child protection issues.

“People may still be worried about children but they might not be on the child protection register. There may be low level worries about a young person.

“There are systems in place to log concerns with social services. If we get any information anonymously about concerns over a child what we can do then is pass it onto social services so any concerns can start to build up a picture.

“We do not just look at that piece of information in isolation. It may be a missing piece in a jigsaw which will determine whether a child is being abused or not or it could be a child that is already known to a social worker.

“On the surface it may not be significant but it could be.”

There were 1,224 calls from Suffolk residents in the first nine months of 2005, with 3,633 from Essex during the same period.

The helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and works in close co-operation with social services and police, making an average of 112 referrals a week.

About 13% of calls received relate to children at serious risk of harm, and these result in referrals to the appropriate child protection agencies for further investigation.

The helpline receives a wide range of general requests for information, advice and counselling. Common issues include children's behavioural difficulties, contact and residence problems, child protection proceedings, and adults who have been abused as children.

The NSPCC's helpline is 0808 800 5000 or for more information visit www.nspcc.org.uk.

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