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Child safety fears as pandemic shrinks Tayside and Fife protection register

Child protection registrations fell last year
Child protection registrations fell last year

Child abuse and neglect are feared to be going unreported in Tayside and Fife after a dramatic drop was recorded in the number of youngsters being added to the official protection register.

New figures show the number of names being put onto the confidential list of children who are at significant risk of harm has plummeted during the pandemic.

Lockdown restrictions have previously been blamed for contributing to a fall in reports about potential child suffering being made by teachers and members of the public, because at-risk youngsters were not being seen in public as often as usual.

Now, official statistics have confirmed that new child protection registrations in Scotland fell by 7.6% between 2019 and 2020, and then by another 12.9% last year.

The Scottish Government insisted the figures were “encouraging”, saying early action was often taken to help youngsters during the pandemic.

Demand for ‘Urgent review’ into fall of child protection registrations

However, Scottish Labour MSP Michael Marra demanded an “urgent review” into the fall in registrations, amid fears many cases may have been hidden from the authorities.

In Perth and Kinross, the drop was much higher than the national average, with the number decreasing by 16.2% to 119 in 2020, and then by another 25.2% to 89 last year.

The fall was recorded last year despite publicity surrounding the harrowing case of “Child B” in the area.

The youngster’s life was only saved when a shocked member of the public contacted police after noticing their “deathly” pale complexion.

In Fife, meanwhile, there was an 8.2% decrease in new registrations in 2020, and a drop of 11.6% in 2021.

And the data for Dundee City shows a 7.1% decline in new names in each of the last two years, with 145 additions in 2021.

New registrations actually increased by 10.2% to 108 in Angus in 2020, but then fell by 13% last year to 94.

The total number of children on the register, after de-registrations are factored in, fell in the three Tayside authorities last year, although it was up by 3.4% in Fife.

Across Scotland, there was a 20.3% decrease, with the overall number going from 2,641 in 2020 to 2,104 youngsters last year.

Mr Marra, Labour MSP for the north-east, said: “The fall in registrations is a real cause for concern, and is a situation in need of urgent review both nationally and locally.

“The pandemic has not meant child protection cases have went away, only that they are less visible.

“These figures further highlight the lack of analysis the Scottish Government has done in measuring the impact of Covid-related disruption on young people.

“The only response we’ve seen in relation to this situation is a cut to local authorities and social work departments.”

Michael Marra MSP
Michael Marra MSP

Youngsters can be added to the child protection register if concerns for their safety are reported to agencies such as police or social work departments, and after an initial case conference is held to determine the risk.

A child protection plan will be drawn up when a name is put on the register, potentially including their removal from a household.

‘Robust measures’

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The drop in child protection registrations in the period tracked is encouraging.

“Robust child protection measures have remained in place across Scotland throughout the pandemic.

“Local areas have prioritised early support for children and families during the Covid crisis, helping to alleviate concerns before they reach care and protection thresholds.”

A Dundee City Council spokesman said: “Dundee multi-agency efforts to protect children and young people, especially in the face of extra challenges caused by the pandemic, were highlighted earlier this year when the Care Inspectorate published a report of a joint inspection of services for children and young people at risk of harm.

“Inspectors rated city services as ‘Good’ and highlighted a number of key strengths. These included committed staff who effectively recognised and responded to concerns, even as the pandemic progressed.

“The report also praised the collaborative approach throughout the city’s partnership that had resulted in the effective development and delivery of a range of multi-agency services.

“The inspection raised areas for improvement which align very closely with the self-evaluation activity of local agencies and these are already being taken forward.”

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