The number of children in St Helens on child protection plans has dropped by almost 40 per cent, a new report has revealed.
Child protection plans are drawn up by the local authority and sets out how the child can be kept safe, how things can be made better for the family and what support they will need.
Improving outcomes and experiences for children on child protection and child in need plans is one of four key themes in St Helens Council’s three-year children’s social care action plan.
“The issue of quantity in terms of demand for child protection, children in need and looked after children plans has been consistently identified by inspectors and officers for a significant period of time,” the report says.
“There is strong evidence that a number of the initiatives agreed in May 2016 are beginning to pay dividends and we are seeing a downward trajectory in a number of demands.
“However, there is further work to do to ensure that only those children who need child protection and children in need plans have them, and that where they do have plans, this leads to significant and fast paced improvement in their own and their families lives.
“It is important to ensure children and receiving the right service at the right time.”
The number of referrals to children’s social care during 2017-18 fell from 2,070 to 1,885, according to the council’s latest performance outturn report.
The report also reveals there was a significant reduction in the number of children recorded as having become the subject of a child protection plan, with 156 compared to 256 in the previous financial year.
It says there has been a 17 per cent reduction in the number of recorded open social care cases, with 1,571, down from 1,882 the previous financial year, as of March 2017.
Despite reducing, the rate of open cases in St Helens remains higher than comparable regional and national averages.
However, the number of Section 47 enquiries initiated in 2017-18 has now dropped below national and regional averages.
A Section 47 investigation is undertaken when there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm.
There were 539 Section 47 enquiries imitated in 2017-18 – equating to a rate of 148.1 per 10,000 population, a decrease from 145 per 10,000 in 2016-17.
“There has been a significant and safe decrease in the rate of Section 47s over the last three years in St Helens and the latest comparative performance shows that the rate is now just below the national and regional rate,” the report says.
“Work to safely reduce numbers of CIN (children in need) has been ongoing through the development of a more effective early help offer and a looked after children strategy.”
The report says that, as of the end of March 2018, there were 442 children in St Helens in care, which equates to a rate of 121.4 per 10,000.
The report says rates remain high in comparison to regional and national averages and above the 2016-17 outturn rate (112.6).
Out of the 442 children in care, 35 experienced three or more placement moves, a one per cent reduction on the previous financial year.
Additionally, there have been a total of 19 adoptions over the course of 2017-18.
Both reports were noted by cabinet.
Kenny Lomas , Local Democracy Reporting Service