Social workers dealing with cases of neglect and child abuse have seen a dramatic and sustained rise in the numbers of cases at the “front door” of safeguarding services in the past two years. Research carried out for the Association of Directors of Children’s Services shows that cases where staff have had to investigate and identify possible harm to children have risen by more than 20 per cent.
The Association commissioned the research to get an up-to-date picture of the demand for child protection services which can inform decision making locally and nationally. The study shows that while most safeguarding social work activities, from initial referrals to children moving to be ‘looked after’ rose by an average of 21 per cent between the final quarter of 2007 and the same period last year.
While staffing levels have increased in that period, the increase has not kept pace and only 10 per cent more staff are dealing with the increased demand for services. The Association says the figures are the most up-to-date available and are based on information from more local authorities than any other non-statutory data collection.
The figures show the number of initial contacts rose by almost a quarter and referrals – those cases thought to need further investigation were up by more than 16 per cent. Almost a third more children were subject to a child protection plan and the number of cases where emergency protection or interim care orders were issued rose by 32 and 38 per cent respectively. The only activity to show a fall was the issuing of full care orders, which was down by 8 per cent.