Thursday, 21 April 2011

Disturbing Trends?

There is more evidence this week of increased demand for child protection services.
In the year ending 31st March 2011, the NSPCC’s Helpline referred more than 16,000 cases to local authorities, a huge increase of 37% on the previous year.

Helpline managers believe this increase results from members of the public being more aware of child protection issues and being more willing to act if they have suspicions.

Also researchers at Cardiff University’s Violence and Society Research Group report a 20% increase in the number of children under 11 who needed emergency hospital treatment as a result of violence last year.

This is in contrast to other age groups where injuries from assault requiring hospital treatment fell by more than 10 per cent. The rise in the number of younger children requiring treatment follows an 8% increase in 2009.

Upward trends in child abuse and neglect are always disturbing, but sometimes result from changes in reporting practices. However, a clear-cut issue that will not go away is that the load on agencies – especially children’s social care – as a result of increased referrals is increasing substantially.

Given the long-term staffing and resource problems that afflict the provision of child protection services in the United Kingdom, there is every reason to view these figures with apprehension, if not alarm. Whatever the recommendations of the Munro Review are, they will not amount to a quick fix. In the meantime the system looks set to struggle to deal with substantial surges in demand without increased resources or improved working practices.