Fewer children under protection, says report

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Child protection in the Borders is everyone’s responsibility. That is the message from Duncan MacAulay, a former chief social worker who took over last year as the independent chairman of the multi-agency Scottish Borders Child Protection Committee (CPC).

It comes in the annual report of a body which is responsible for ensuring that all agencies work effectively together to plan and protect children aged 15 and under from abuse, neglect and harm.

Those represented on the committee, which has seven specialist subgroups, include health, education, housing and social work professionals, along with the police and the Children’s Reporter service.

The report reveals that there were 436 child protection referrals in the region in the year to July 31, 2014, compared to 489 the previous year.

The police (28 per cent) and friends/family/neighbours (25 per cent) were responsible for the highest proportion of referrals. Others were made by the public (15 per cent) and the children themselves (10 per cent).

“It is important to identify where the initial first move comes from,” said Mr MacAulay. “It flags up weaknesses and strengths in our campaigns to raise public awareness. It is encouraging that referrals are coming from most sectors.”

However, when the report was presented to the council, Councillor Catriona Bhatia registered her “surprise” that the fewest number of referrals – less than 5 per cent – had come from schools.

The CPS report revealed that, from the referrals, 93 child protection investigations had been completed over the year and, of the issues identified, the most prominent concern was emotional abuse (52 per cent). Other concerns included neglect (down from 35 to 19 per cent over the year), parental substance and alcohol abuse (up from 16 to 25 per cent), parental mental health problems (down from 31 to 8 per cent) and sexual abuse (down from 4 to 3 per cent).

These investigations had led to a total of 36 children’s names being placed on the Child Protection Register over the year, in contrast to the 88 in 2012-13.

At July 31, 2014 the number on the register was 21, compared to 29 on the corresponding date in 2013. Mr MacAulay told councillors that by the end of September last year, the number had fallen to 17.

“We are aware there is a reduction in the number of children on the register and are monitoring this,” he said.

“However, we are not unduly concerned…the view is that the introduction of the lead professional and development of the ‘meeting around the child’ process is assisting families and reducing the need for escalation to child protection intervention.

“Further work will take place to monitor this over the next year.”