'Frightening' figures show number of looked-after children in Hartlepool has risen to 300
The number of looked-after children in Hartlepool has now reached 300.
Children’s safety bosses have praised work being undertaken in Hartlepool despite the ‘significant demand and pressure’ in the area.
It came as the annual report of the Hartlepool Safeguarding Children Board went before the Health and Wellbeing Board.
Dave Pickard, independent chair of the Hartlepool Safeguarding Children Board, said the number of looked after children in the town has reached its ‘highest level ever’ at more than 300.
However he did praise the system in place in the town and the steps being taken to support those in need.
Mr Pickard said: “There continues to be significant demand and pressure on all agencies that are undertaking safeguarding functions.
“In reality that is fuelled by both poverty, 36% of children in Hartlepool live in poverty, and the impacts of austerity.
“Looked after children has reached its highest level ever, at the end of this report it was 284, I think it’s plateaued at just over 300 now.
“That continues to put significant pressure on all agencies because that’s the highest level of escalation when a child needs to be taken into care.
“Whilst those figures are quite frightening in relation to size, it shows the system is working because the children are actually being protected and taken into care.”
He highlighted the biggest issues in the area which lead to children becoming looked after, including substance misuse and domestic abuse.
He added several serious case reviews have been implemented, as well as active learning training, to try and reduce the number of looked-after children.
Mr Pickard said: “The system has identified dangers and qualitative action has been taken to protect those children.
“Neglect continues to be the biggest category for a child being taken into care. That also highlights the continuing impact of domestic abuse, mental health issues and substance misuse.
“Hopefully it will lead to early intervention and prevention, as we all know prevention is better than being on a child protection plan, but obviously that is the ambition.”
Going forward the Hartlepool Safeguarding Children Board is to be replaced by the new Hartlepool and Stockton Safeguarding Children Partnership. Updates will be given in the new year.