Child neglect identified as key issue in 669 Rotherham youngsters' cases in a year

CHILD neglect was identified as the key issue in assessments of 669 youngsters in a year, figures revealed as Rotherham Council adopted a new approach.

The failure to meet children’s basic physical or psychological needs was described as a “big problem” during Monday’s cabinet meeting.

There were 4,259 assessments completed in the year ending March 2023, with neglect the main issue in 15 per cent of cases. It also accounts for 40 per cent of Rotherham’s child protection plans.

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Rotherham Safeguarding Children Partnership chairman Darren Downs said: “You would never trivialise neglect in any way but sometimes it has a lesser impact than more serious cases.

“But the sheer volume of it means that we need to put some real focus and attention into reducing it, making sure communities have a voice and that we can understand the pressures they are under.

“There’s lots of other factors that will impact on neglect, be it cost of living, poverty, educational standards, there’s a lot of things that impact on that in the longer term and we do need to focus and understand a lot more.”

Another concern has been the lingering effects of pandemic disruption.

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Laura Gough, RMBC head of safeguarding, quality and learning, said: “What we are dealing with is a generation of children that were hidden through lockdowns, so we are still identifying children that have experienced neglect.

“We are still dealing with large numbers of children who have not returned to education, so children who are hidden from professionals.

“Neglect is an element of all aspects of child abuse. It can kill children, so the importance of this strategy we can’t minimise in any way.”

Cabinet members approved a new three-year strategy on Monday (22), when it was noted that a “neglect delivery group” had recently been set-up to increase focus on the issue.

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RMBC leader Cllr Chris Read said neglect had perhaps not had the same “airtime” in the council chamber in recent times as other difficulties, challenges and abuse.

But he added: “It’s one of the most common serious problems that children face. This is essentially work right at the heart of the lives of children in the borough.”

Cllr Victoria Cusworth, cabinet member for children and young people, added: “It is a big problem.

“It can be so broad-ranging, from children maybe going to school without the appropriate clothing – we’ve had it bitterly cold in the last few weeks – right through to someone not receiving enough food and being malnourished, or not being taken to medical appointments.”

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There has been positive news with a decline in the number of Rotherham youngsters on child protection plans, which are made when there is a risk of significant harm.

This figure fell from 505 in July 2022 to just under 400 at the end of March last year and has since dropped further to 324.

Mr Downs said: “All the signs are that everything is heading in the right direction in terms of making a difference to that.”