Reports of concern for children’s wellbeing from police rose during lockdown in Tayside, amid the growing impact of mental health.
More members of the public contacted emergency services worried about youngsters they suspected were suffering abuse, neglect or harm in lockdown in Dundee, Angus and Perth and Kinross.
Data presented by Dundee Child Protection Committee showed that Police Scotland child concern reports rose by 15% in Dundee to 2,430 last year, compared to 2,118 in 2019.
In Angus reports rose by 8% to 1,355 and in Perth and Kinross by 5% to 1,451.
With children out of school and fewer seen by health services, campaigns by child protection organisations encouraged members of the public to be vigilant for children at risk of ‘hidden harm’ in lockdown.
In Dundee the number of cases then referred for further assessment to the city’s multi-agency screening hub was said to have remained broadly similar, with no significant increase in the number of children actually at risk.
But leading social worker Glyn Lloyd said more in-depth investigations were conducted in relation to mental health, domestic abuse and substance misuse.
The acting head of children’s service and community justice said: “What we are seeing is that beneath that child protection threshold is an increase in concerns around mental health in particular.
“That’s why all of the work we are doing with health, schools and third sector partners on prevention and early identification and support is crucially important going forward so that we stop those problems escalating, particularly as we come out of the pandemic.”
He spoke as efforts to protect Dundee children during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic and first lockdown were outlined in a report to Dundee City Council’s children and families services committee on Monday evening.
This work has included providing face-to-face support at least once a fortnight to those families who need it and coordinating eight community support centres and outreach support.
Elaine Torrance, independent chairwoman of the child protection committee, said key partners had responded quickly and flexibly to identify hidden harm while schools were closed.
She added: “In Dundee we all need to continue to be vigilant to ensure that any concerns are reported and we are able to ensure that support that is provided to families and children and young people as we move into the recovery period.”
Councillor Stewart Hunter, children and families services convener, praised what he said was “phenomenal” work to ensure vulnerable children and young people were cared for.
He said: “These continue to be very challenging times and this report demonstrates the ongoing efforts to keep children safe from harm.
“Our teams have been extremely flexible in responding to these circumstances and have developed innovative ways to deliver services.”