Stoke & Staffordshire

Stoke-on-Trent social workers 'may miss' at risk children

Serious cases involving children at risk in Stoke on Trent could be being missed because social workers are handling too many cases.

A city council report said they handled reports concerning 9,000 children in the past year - about one sixth of the city's children.

High profile cases like Baby P had prompted more calls from the public, the council said.

Council opposition leader Dave Conway said the figures were "mind-boggling."

Mr Conway said he believed increased pressure on families caused by austerity cuts could also have contributed.

"I do realise that families have got problems but 9,000 children is the equivalent of one in every six children in the city and that is mind-boggling," he said.

The city council said of the 9,000 cases it dealt with, 3,500 children were given assessments.

Other cases were not pursued or were referred to local social care charities.

'Sheer volume'

Jackie Carnell, from the city's Safeguarding Children Board, said the figures were "too high" but she did not believe children in Stoke-on-Trent were more at risk than anywhere else in the UK.

She admitted more serious cases could be "slipping through the net because of the sheer volume of inquiries".

She said: "I think when you get high profile cases people feel there's more risk than possibly there is and they want to do the right thing.

"I think that's one of the reasons for the high level of contact and that we're getting the message out about safeguarding children."

Figures showed that about 4,200 referrals had been made to social services in the past 12 months.

The council said it planned to spend about £20,000 to move some social workers into a single "hub" in Stone, Staffordshire.

The hub is where police, health, social care, and mental health professionals work together to tackle the issue of child abuse and neglect.

"When a referral comes in the teams really can share any intelligence they have, making sure families get the right help at the very beginning of the process," Ms Carnell said.

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