Concerns over high number of Sunderland children under protection plans

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Concerns have been raised about the number of children under child protection plans in Sunderland.

On Thursday, April 19, Sunderland City Council’s scrutiny co-ordinating committee met to discuss a report on the council’s performance.

The corporate performance report provided data on council services between October – December 2017 with councillors invited to make comments.

In the ‘Protecting Vulnerable Children’ section, the committee heard Sunderland has a higher rate of children subject to protection plans than its ‘statistical neighbours’.

In December 2017, Sunderland City Council’s rate was 103.8 per 10,000 – nearly double the rate of statistical neighbours at 53.31.

The term ‘statistical’ neighbours refers to a group of around 11 councils who share similar characteristics within services for children.

Sunderland’s statistical neighbours include Halton, Hartlepool, South Tyneside, Gateshead, St Helen’s, Barnsley, Darlington, Tameside, Wakefield and Durham.

Figures also revealed 20 per cent of children – or 44 – were subject to a Child Protection Plan for a second or subsequent time between October-December last year.

Director of performance and quality at Together for Children (TFC), Jayne Ivory, said there are “quite a high number of children in need in Sunderland” with several factors involved.

This ranges from poverty to “compromised parenting” with many children using the services of the integrated contact team, or the “the front door of social care”.

She added that TFC are on a “improvement journey” and responding to questions from councillors, she explained not all statistical neighbours have the same improvement challenges.

Coun Colin English responded, adding its a “big journey” taking into account Sunderland’s figures are nearly twice the amount of statistical neighbours.

Coun David Snowdon asked for officers to provide financial figures to show TFC is on budget while committee chairman Norma Wright acknowledged the service was working to improve.

“We know that it’s an improvement journey and we know things are happening and you’re doing your best,” she said.

“I would certainly wish you the very best and hope that the journey of improvement continues , it’s absolutely vital as far as we’re concerned.”

The committee also praised statistics that revealed 89 per cent of care leavers, as of December 2017, had found suitable accommodation, beating the council target of 71 per cent.

Ms Ivory added TFC had plans to build a childrens’ home for ages nine and over to reflect the “difficult journeys” of some children through the care system.

She said main childrens homes care for those aged 12-17 and the new project would help young people with “challenging behaviour and trauma” where “being in a family setting wont work.”

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service