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Bucks Council warn of children abuse reports rising

Many children have has no contact with a social worker during the pandemic.

Published by Scarlett Bawden-Gaul at 8:06am 7th June 2020. (Updated at 10:28am 7th June 2020) 4-minute read.

Bucks Council warn of children abuse reports rising

Buckinghamshire Council are expecting the number of reports to rise.

A “flood” of reports about children who faced abuse during lockdown is expected in the coming months.

Children’s services chiefs in Bucks issued the stark warning after it was revealed four per cent of vulnerable children on the council’s radar have not had contact with a social worker during the coronavirus pandemic.

Councillor Mark Shaw, Buckinghamshire Council’s children’s services boss, said:

“We clearly know what has been happening to our vulnerable children and those that are known to us because we’ve been keeping in contact with them.

“What’s going to be the real challenge is those children we know nothing about, we don’t know what they’ve been facing over the last seventy days.

“We have great concerns we could be flooded with cases especially when children are fully back at school.

“We’re very concerned that come September, we could actually have a flood of new cases when children and young people start to open up about the challenges they faced in their home environment over the last months and that’s going to potentially be a very difficult time and a time we are going to have manage very carefully.

“Quite clearly, any child that has gone through abuse, we will be there supporting them and we will take action as soon as we find out about it.”

Figures from a cabinet meeting last week showed the number of children in care in Buckinghamshire had dropped by more than five per cent in the past 14 months.

‘Looked after children’ totalled 513 as of March 2019 but this figure had been reduced to 484 by May 2020.

Furthermore, the number of children on a child protection plan, which sets out how vulnerable children can be better supported, also dropped.

A report shows 599 children needed these plans in March 2019, compared to around 530 now.

But a report from the council’s children’s services department indicates bosses are expecting an increase in referrals to the department and a recovery plan is being developed to ensure these children are supported.

Children’s services boss Councillor Mark Shaw said most families and children were reacting positively to video calls with social workers, and in some cases, more positively than in face-to-face meetings.

Service director Richard Nash said those families who did not have access to video-call technology, however, were given new equipment to help them connect to social workers during the pandemic.

But he was quizzed by Cllr Sally-Anne Jarvis on why the council could not connect with the remaining four per cent of the vulnerable children it was aware of.

He explained:

“We worked really hard to make sure we could have real-time daily and weekly data about which families were responding to us and which weren’t.

“A network of meetings on a daily basis allowed us to prioritise those families where the risk was greatest, and if someone hadn’t responded to us and clearly didn’t want to, then a decision would be made about whether we go and send someone out to go and knock on their door.

“I’m very confident that system has allowed us to know who the four per cent are and for us to evaluate their safety and work out what the proportionate and the right thing for us to do was at that time.

“That’s pretty much what the service has been focused on almost exclusively during this period of time.”

This discussion took place a meeting of Buckinghamshire Council’s children and education committee, held virtually on Thursday, June 4.

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