Child welfare register cases soar by 20% in five years

A pregnant woman is abused by her partner. Picture posed by models

A pregnant woman is abused by her partner. Picture posed by models

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SOCIAL work chiefs have warned the number of young people in child protection will continue to rise, as new figures showed a dramatic increase over the past five years.

Referrals to the child protection register in Edinburgh totalled more than 1800 in the past year, a 20 per cent increase on 2007.

A total of 100 children were added to the child protection register before they were born last year due to concerns over their welfare, according to the annual report on social work.

Meanwhile, despite high-profile campaigns aimed at tackling domestic abuse, figures recorded by Lothian and Borders Police as of March 31 revealed there were 5300 incident in the past year, a slight increase of 69 from last year.

The percentage of incidents where children were present in the home was 45.7 per cent, which chief social work officer Michelle Miller said was hugely damaging to families.

“In terms of trends the risk to children is very significant and is increasing,” she said during a presentation to Edinburgh City Council yesterday.

“Domestic abuse is so significant in terms of the impact on both children and adults.”

High rates of alcohol and drug abuse among parents are likely to account for many of the children being removed from their homes.

Estimates suggest 3100-4700 children in the city are affected in some way by parental drug abuse and just under 5100 by alcohol.

The Edinburgh Alcohol and Drugs Partnership is commissioning a study on the scale of the problem, which is likely to shed more light on the scale of the issues.

The annual report also highlighted that the number of young people on the child protection register in Midlothian stands at ten per 1000, compared with the 2.8 per 1000 average in Scotland.

Midlothian Council has insisted that a higher level of identification of abuse and neglect has led to the figures, although the local authority has identified the area as a problem in recent years.

As the News revealed in 2009, its social work director Colin Anderson admitted its workers were as stretched those in Haringey, where failures led to the death of Peter Connelly, known as Baby P.

Broadly speaking, social work chiefs and the government have attributed increases to improvements in identifying children with abusive parents, or those not capable of adequately caring for them.

Paul Godzik, the city’s education leader, told the Evening News: “There’s been a lot of work in recent years to increase awareness about child protection and how to report concerns, so the gradual rise is likely to reflect that. If the increase in referrals means that more people can be protected, that is a very positive step.

“Sadly, the abuse of children and vulnerable adults is a feature of society, but we work very closely with the police, health service and other partners to protect and support them.”

He added: “Prevention work is also absolutely essential, with a wide range of organisations all working together to help families deal with complex problems.

“By its very nature, this is huge, long-term challenge for all of us, but there’s a lot of very good work going on in Edinburgh to help ensure that all children have a safe and secure start in life.”