Specialists deal with Devon child abuse backlog

Devon County Council Devon County Council said urgent cases were being prioritised and the backlog consisted of those considered to be less serious

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A specialist team has been brought in to deal with a backlog of reports of potential abuse and neglect of children in Devon, BBC News can reveal.

A letter from the Devon Safeguarding Children Board said there were 1,500 cases, but Devon County Council said that had now been cut to 570.

Fifteen social workers who specialise in child protection have been bought in from outside the council.

The authority said it should be cleared "within the next couple of months".

Analysis

There have been serious concerns about Devon County Council's work in protecting the most vulnerable children in the county.

The authority has said it is overhauling its systems, investing more money, and is "determined to bring about fundamental improvement", even as it struggles with severe budget cuts.

But this letter we've obtained will only add to the concerns about Devon's child protection services.

The council added that urgent cases were being prioritised and the backlog consisted of those considered to be less serious.

The concern centres on the Exeter-based Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), which investigates reports raising concerns that children may be suffering abuse, are at risk of harm, or are being neglected.

On average, it receives 1,300 calls a month, according to Devon County Council.

The letter said: "This is a very difficult time for all concerned and there have been high levels of demand falling particularly on children's social care.

"However, the safety of children should not be compromised and it is the duty of all professionals to escalate matters if there they have specific serious concerns about the safety of children and young people."

The centre is run by staff from the NHS, education and social services and was set up in response to criticism that agencies were not working closely enough together in child protection.

In May, Devon's Child Protection Services were rated 'inadequate' by the regulator, OFSTED.

In response the council set up an independent panel to oversee an improvement in services.

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