Child protection figures rise

NEW figures reveal the number of vulnerable children subject to a protection plan rose by almost 17 per cent in a year.

Children placed on protection plans are at serious risk of neglect, abuse or significant harm and the intensive support package ensures children see doctors regularly, get to school safely and have someone to talk to.

In Hartlepool, the number of children subject to a protection plan was 125 at the end of March this year, a 16.8 per cent rise on the figure of 107 from the previous year.

But officers say the figures fluctuate throughout the year and the number is currently back down to 107. Neglect remains the most common cause, accounting for 81 per cent of the plans.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee met to discuss the annual report of the Hartlepool Safeguarding Children Board.

Jill Harrison, the council’s assistant director of commissioning, said: “In relation to children within the child protection system, in common with the national trend, there has been an increase in the number who have become subject of a protection plan.

“Those aged up to nine continue to constitute the majority on a plan, although there has been an increase in the number of teenagers this year.”

Mayor Stuart Drummond said the increase from 2011 to 2012 wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as it showed those children were being identified and brought into the system.

The assistant director agreed and said increased awareness was leading to an increase in referrals.

Mayor Drummond said: “There has been an increase in those made subject to a protection plan, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

“It shows we are more aware, and there is something that we can do. It is positive that people know there are these services in place to support the children.”

Independent councillor Cath Hill, portfolio holder for children’s and community services, said: “I think it is right to congratulate ourselves and the fact that we are picking up more of these cases.

“But we can’t get away from the fact that there are more of these cases out there, it is a fact of life.”

A report to cabinet concluded agencies in town are safeguarding the children of Hartlepool and the board is fulfilling its responsibility.

Cabinet members heard the Hartlepool Safeguarding Children Board had produced and published a annual report each year since 2008.

Priorities for 2012-13 include:

● Children and young people living in households where they are properly cared for, all of their needs are met and they are free from the impact of neglect.

● Children and young people living free from the impact of domestic violence and youngsters in Hartlepool are supported to make safer choices and are safeguarded from significant harm.