Rise in Plymouth child protection plans

Child holding a sign Image copyright Thinkstock/Bigandt_Photography
Image caption The plans aim to protect children from neglect, emotional, physical or sexual abuse

The number of protection plans to try to keep children and unborn babies safe from abuse has increased dramatically in Plymouth in five years, the BBC has found.

In 2010, 405 children were subject to a child protection plan compared to 545 in 2014 - a rise of 35%, the biggest increase in south-west England.

The plans are designed to protect the most vulnerable children.

Plymouth City Council said the rise was due to "heightened public awareness".

'Significant rise'

The figures, released in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, show 67 unborn babies were added to the register in 2014, compared to a low of 47 in 2011.

Most of them were subject to a plan because of the risk of neglect or physical injury.

Chris Cuthbert, from children's charity the NSPCC, said the rise may look "alarming" but it actually means "children are receiving help early on".

"Even though some authorities face huge budget pressures and increasingly challenging caseloads, recognising risks and providing services before birth can give parents the best opportunity to change their behaviour before the baby is born."

The charity said the rise was "significant" but it appeared the council had "focused on the problem" of children being at risk by issuing more plans.

Children subject to child protection plans in Plymouth

2010 - 405

2011 - 383

2012 - 421

2013 - 480

2014 - 545

Source: Freedom of Information response

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Child protection plans are designed to protect the most vulnerable children

Some other councils in the South West also reported a rise over the five-year period but not to the same extent as Plymouth.

Torbay Council saw an increase of 22% from 345 children in 2010, to 421 in 2014, while in 2010 Devon County Council had 436 children subject to plans compared to 515 in 2014 - a rise of 18%.

Cornwall Council saw a drop of 16% from 355 plans in 2010 to 297 in 2014.

Plymouth City Council said: "We have received a substantial increase in the number of referrals from the public and professionals and this seems to be a national trend."

The authority said it believed the rise was due to "heightened public awareness", following several high-profile national cases.

"This, coupled with other current influencing factors like the economy, which has put pressure on family finances, has resulted in a marked increase in the number of children in need of some form of safeguarding."

Child protection plans

  • The plans are designed to protect the most vulnerable children from sexual and emotional abuses, neglect and physical injury
  • They are made after a conference - a meeting with all the people involved with the child
  • The plan will detail the risks and the actions needed to keep the child safe
  • It will be put in place, then reviewed and amended

Source: NSPCC and South West Child Protection Procedures

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