Shocking rise in children 'at risk'

THE number of children deemed at risk in Suffolk through neglect or physical abuse has soared by 12% in a nine-month period, new figures reveal.

Danielle Nuttall

THE number of children deemed at risk in Suffolk through neglect or physical abuse has soared by 12% in a nine-month period, new figures reveal.

About half of the 468 children who came to the attention of social workers between March and December last year were considered to be at risk of neglect - mainly due to their parents' drug and alcohol abuse.

Meanwhile, the number of children physically abused rose by 21%, from 66 to 80 children.

The shock figures, revealed in a report to Suffolk County Council's cabinet committee, come on the same day that a national survey of hospital data revealed violence against young children and babies had more than doubled last year.

The study, which included data from Ipswich Hospital, showed the number of children aged from birth to 10 attending accident and emergency departments after being injured in a violent attack rose from an estimated 3,805 to 8,067 (112%).

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In Suffolk, the number of children made subject of a “child protection plan” rose from 418 in March 2007 to 468 by the end of the year.

A total of 452 children were made the subject of child protection plans during the nine-month period while 408 children ceased to be the subject of such a plan.

According to the report, set to be discussed on Tuesday, Suffolk has more children per 10,000 subject to child protection plans than similar-sized neighbours and the national average.

Emotional abuse increased by 9% from 106 to 125 children but incidents of sexual abuse fell from 32 to 19 children, it said.

The county council said the rise in the number of children made subject of a child protection plan in Suffolk last year was due to an increase in referrals from the police and other agencies.

Cliff James, head of safeguarding at the county council, said: “One of the main explanations behind the increase is the greater awareness of the risk to children when there is evidence of domestic abuse involving parent and partners.

“As a result, the number of referrals from the police and other agencies in such cases has risen. It is clearly very important that every member of the community should let us or the police know when they suspect that a child may be at risk.”

Cardiff University's violence research group published research yesterday which showed the assault injury rate for children under 10 rose from 0.7 per 1,000 in 2006 to 1.5 last year.

However, violence against people of all ages fell by 12% overall compared with 2006.

The report said: “It is not clear whether violence at the hands of parents or carers is responsible for this increase - recent evidence suggests that violence between children at school and in public places is also a problem.

“In any event, the roles of child safeguarding agencies including the NHS, police and local authorities remain essential and should be enhanced.

“This increase against violence directed against children in England and Wales is cause for concern.”

Kathy Evans, of the Children's Society, said the group's findings caused “serious concern”.

“It is a shocking reminder that, while many are preoccupied by violence perpetrated by children, we need to look at the violence the children are experiencing from a very early age, and how it influences them.”

“It is particular concern to see that this young age group was the only group to see an increase.”

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