Drop in number of child protection plans

THE number of youngsters subject to intervention by child protection specialists has dropped by a third over the past year.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s social work teams currently deliver services to 944 children in town, which is a 10 per cent rise on the same time last year.

But the number of youngsters subject to the serious child protection plans has dropped from 150 in June last year to 98 this year.

Children placed on protection plans are at serious risk of neglect, abuse or significant harm.

The intensive support package ensures children see doctors regularly, get to school safely and have someone to talk to.

Neglect continues to be the highest category, accounting for 81 per cent of the plans.

Senior officers say last year’s peak of 150 was probably due to increased referrals as a result of high-profile national cases of child neglect.

Officers said there are effective safeguarding measures in town and have praised the 44 qualified social workers for their work with families.

Independent councillor Cath Hill, portfolio holder for children’s services, was told about the figures for the first quarter of the year, April to June, at a council meeting.

Coun Hill said: “There is a lot to be really positive about in this report.

“The fact that we have no unallocated cases is really important.

“The last thing that we want is to have a child that is in desperate need of a service and we cannot allocate them.

“I would like to congratulate the staff for their hard work.”

Of the 944 children, 98 have a protection plan, 173 are being looked after and the remaining 673 are vulnerable youngsters who have complex or acute needs, classed as children in need.

The children looked after by the council include children in foster care, which accounts for 87 per cent of cases, residential homes and those receiving short break care at homes like Exmoor Grove.

Sally Robinson, the council’s assistant director of child and adult services, said: “We have great foster care provision in town.

“We have a community that looks after its own and that is a great achievement.”

She added that the council does not currently employ agency workers for social work posts.

The department, which was recently restructured to allow for an extra social work team, recently advertised for two new posts and 22 candidates were short-listed.

Senior officers said it showed that people wanted to work for the council’s social work team.

Coun Hill asked if the rise in the cost of living has had any impact on the number of children that the council provide services for.

Officers said they could not make a direct correlation, but added that anything that places extra pressure on families could have an impact.