Safeguarding and Child Protection
- There were 3,109 children in need in Somerset as at 31 March 2017, an increase of 7% on the number at the same time in 2016.
- Numbers of referrals to Children's Social Care increased by 16% in 2016/17 compared to the previous year.
- The number of Section 47 enquiries (where a child suspected to be suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm) has also increased.
- At the end of March 2017 there were 413 children with child protection plans in the county.
- Neglect is the most common initial reason for children being subject to a child protection plan, followed by emotional abuse.
Children in Need
When a child is referred to children’s social care, an assessment is carried out to identify if the child is in need to services, which local authorities have an obligation to provide under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. These services can include, for example, family support, leaving care support, adoption support or disabled children’s services.
There were 3,109 children in need in Somerset as at 31 March 2017, equating to 284 per 10,000 population. This represents an increase of 7%, from 2,903 children the previous year. Somerset is below South West and national averages in terms of rates of children in need.
Referrals to Children's Social Care
|A referral is defined as a request for services to be provided by children's social care and is in respect of a child who is not currently in need.
There were 4,777 referrals during 2016/17, compared to 4,133 in 2015/16. The police and schools continue to be the most common referral sources (accounting for 28% and 17% of referrals respectively), followed by health services (14%), local authority services (13%), and individuals (13%). 'Individuals' includes referrals from family members, relatives, carers, acquaintances and self-referrals.
Re-referrals to Children’s Social Care
|Re-referrals are measured within 12 months of a previous referral. Where a child has had more than one referral this year, each re-referral is counted.
There were 950 re-referrals in the year to 31 March 2017, accounting for 20% of all referrals. This proportion was below South West (23%) and England (22%) averages.
Section 47 enquiries and initial child protection conferences
|If the local authority identifies there is reasonable cause to suspect the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm, it will carry out an assessment under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 to determine if it needs to take steps to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. If concerns are substantiated and the child is judged to be at continuing risk of harm, then an initial child protection conference (ICPC) should be convened within 15 working days.
In 2016/17, 1,577 Section 47 enquiries were initiated, up from 1,297 in 2015/16.
The number of initial child protection conferences (ICPCs) carried out has increased as Section 47 enquiries have increased (up from 478 in 2015/16 to 661 in 2016/17). In 2016/17 the median time taken to convene an ICPC was 13 working days, the same as reported in 2015/16.
Child Protection Plans
|At the initial child protection conference, the decision will be made as to whether the child needs to become the subject of a child protection plan. When a child becomes the subject of a plan, the initial category of abuse is recorded.
At the end of March 2017, there were 413 children with child protection plans in the county. This represents a rate of 38 per 10,000 children, below South West (41 per 10,000) and England (43 per 10,000) averages.
At the end of March 2017, in Somerset, children were subject of child protection plans for the following reasons:
- Neglect - 68%
- Emotional abuse – 19%
- Sexual abuse – 3%
- Physical abuse – 2%
- Multiple factors – 9%
Ending Child Protection Plans
|A child should no longer be the subject of a plan if it is judged they are no longer at risk of harm, or if the child has reached 18 years old, left the country or has died. A local authority will end a plan if the family moves permanently to another authority and the receiving authority will start a new plan if deemed necessary.
A total of 450 children ceased to be the subject of a plan during 2016/17. Approximately 24% of plans lasted a year or more, including 2% of plans which lasted two years or more.