The director of children’s services for the Londonderry area says despite best efforts the number of children for which the health service is now taking parental responsibility for, is at an all-time high.
Figures from the Western Trust’s Corporate Parenting Report for the period April 1 to September 30, revealed there were 6,186 (current caseload) ‘children in need.’
Other stand out figures show that 27 per cent of children on the Child Protection Register have been on the Register for over a year. And 507 (468 at 31st March 2013) children/young people were being ‘looked after’ by the Trust.
Mr Downey said: “Despite our best efforts the number of children for which we are now taking parental responsibility for, is at an all-time high.
“There are many reasons for this including: family illness, family breakdown and problems at home, or a situation where their welfare is threatened.
“Unfortunately, the financial climate has added to the pressures parents face and has compounded those problems which were manageable before.”
“The Trust takes very seriously its responsibility as a corporate parent and makes every effort to ensure we do the best we can for the most vulnerable children living in the Western are.
“The Trust has shared these new and emerging pressures with the Health and Social Care Board to seek the additional resources to support this important work.”
Also highlighted in the report were that there were 67 unallocated referrals/pending cases, an increase of one since March 2013.
These referrals have been screened and are assessed as not requiring a child protection intervention.
There were also 308 annual inspections outstanding and the Trust is actively working to reduce these within the resources available. 179 of these are within the 0-3 month category and 85 per cent of these are for child-minders.
There were 340 (297 at 31st March 2013) children on the Child Protection Register. This indicates an increase in numbers in the last six months
And the 16 plus Pathway Services continued to develop the Trust’s Employability Scheme which has been very successful. Although the Priorities for Action (PFA) target is for at least 70% of all young people aged 19 to be in education, training or employment, the Trust continues to consistently exceed this target reaching 79 per cent in August and an average of 74 per cent over the last reporting period.