Rotherham MBC experienced the biggest surge in the number of children subject to a child protection plan relative to population in 2017-18, as national levels of young people considered at the most risk of serious harm increased by the highest rate for four years.
Figures released today by the Department for Education, show 53,790 children were the subject of a child protection plan across 150 councils at the end of March this year, a 5% increase in 12 months and the sharpest rise since 2014.
According to snap analysis by LGC Rotherham, whose children’s social care services were in January rated ‘good’ by Ofsted for the first time since the child sexual exploitation scandal in the town was uncovered in 2014, saw a 90% rise in children subject to a protection plan per 10,000 of the child population in 2017-18. The rate increased from 78 per 10,000 of the child population to 148.
Rotherham, which last month regained all powers, including those relating to children’s social care, after more than three years of government intervention, had the second highest rate of children on protection plans in the country behind Blackpool BC which had a rate of 156. Sunderland City Council had the third highest rate of 143, while Westminster City Council had the lowest with 22.
Rotherham was one of five councils to see their rate increase by 70% or more over the year. Herefordshire Council had the second biggest increase of 88%, followed by Oldham MBC (79%), Wokingham BC (72%) and Lambeth LBC (71%).
Amanda Chadderton (Lab), Oldham’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “The rise in our child protection plans up until 2017-18 is not unique to this local authority. It is due to a complex range of factors, including the impact of austerity on families and greater public awareness after a number of high-profile national cases.
“However, the amount of child protection plans in Oldham is beginning to stabilise, but we are not complacent and are constantly re-evaluating our systems.
“Through our transformational plan we are redesigning our early intervention and preventative services with additional staff delivering simpler and more effective support for our vulnerable children.”
LGC has also contacted Rotherham and Herefordshire for comment.
Half of councils experienced a reduction in the number of children made the subject of a protection plan relative to population in 2017-18. Southend-on-Sea BC experienced the biggest drop (58%) followed by Hackney LBC (49%) and Telford & Wrekin Council (43%).
The total number of child protection plans starting during the year increased from 66,410 in 2017 to 68,770 in 2018, a rise of 3.6%. The number of child protection plans ending in 2017-18 was 65,920, a slight increase on the previous year.
The percentage of children who were the subject of a child protection plan for longer than three months on 31 March this year, and who had reviews carried out within the required timescales, decreased from 92% in 2017 to 90% in 2018.
The number of children classified as ‘in need’, which relates to all children known to social care services, at the end of March this year increased by 4% from 389,040 in March 2017 to 404,710. There was also an increase in the national rate of children in need per 10,000 of the child population, from 330 in 2017 to 341.
Responding to the figures, the chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board Anntoinette Bramble (Lab) said unprecedented demand is pushing councils “to the brink”.
She said: “Councils have done all they can to protect spending on children’s services by cutting services elsewhere and diverting money, but despite this, they have been forced to reduce or stop the very services which are designed to help children and families before problems begin or escalate to the point where a child might need to come into care.
“We are absolutely clear that unless new funding is found in the autumn Budget, then these vital services, which keep children safe from harm and the worst abuses of society, will reach a tipping point.”
This article was amended at 13.35 on 31 October to change the definition of children classified as ‘in need’ and include a comment from Oldham MBC.