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Neglect figures must not be ignored; More than one in 10 professionals working with children in the North East have seen an increase in suspected cases of child neglect in the past year, a national welfare charity said. HELEN RAE finds out what is being done to ensure children are not neglected.

PROFESSIONALS in the North East are warning child neglect is on the increase in the region.

In the past year, more than one in 10 professionals working with children say they have seen a rise in suspected cases of child neglect, according to findings by the charity Action for Children.

The North East has the highest level of neglect cases in England as a percentage of children on council protection plans, figures show. There are 2,265 under-16s now under local authority watch, with 1,185 youngsters on the neglect register. The survey involved 70 front-line North East workers - including healthcare professionals and teachers - and another 1,900 across the country, of which 54% had encountered children receiving poor care in their homes, while 48% had been exposed to drug and alcohol abuse.

However, only 26% of the professionals surveyed said they had undergone training or received information on what to do if they suspect a child is being neglected.

Mick McCracken, head of safeguarding and children's social care at Newcastle City Council, said everything possible was being done to protect youngsters from neglect in the region. He said: "A lot of effort is regularly put into responding to child neglect cases and there is certainly a raised awareness of the issue.

"It is reassuring to see health professionals and schools are picking up on the issue and that is a possible explanation for the suspected rise in cases outlined in the survey.

"There is a robust system in place to deal with suspected child neglect cases and there is a comprehensive process professionals are guided through.

"Firstly, school staff or health visitors who notice a child and family is struggling, and feel they can deal with the issue themselves, would do something about it by offering practical advice and guidance to the family. However, if more worrying and complicated issues of child neglect arise then what we would do would be assess the family and draw in additional help.

"If it is a situation that looks severe and persistent then social care services would get involved and the case would go into a 'highlevel assessment' process. If necessary the child would be subject to a child protection plan and some children would be put into care."

Sam Cramond of North East Strategic Health Authority said: "We work closely with all local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) across the North East to support health professionals working in this difficult field.

"Following a successful pilot across NHS North East of a national leadership development programme, a second programme is currently being run to strengthen the skills of NHS professionals and enable them to be effective members of LSCBs." In examining the cases of neglect, professionals outlined a number of serious factors. These included family breakdowns, poor parenting skills and the recession.

They also warned of the long-term, damaging problems neglected children are more likely to suffer, including emotional and mental health issues, poor social skills, limited school attendance, bullying and isolation.

The survey comes as Action for Children launches an urgent nationwide appeal to raise pounds 17m to help neglected children.

Millie Cummings, Action for Children's operational director for the North East, said: "Neglect is a growing problem and one we must fix. The same issues for neglected children and their families are coming up time and time again.

"Front-line staff are key to identifying early signs of neglect and giving children and families long-term stable support to tackle the causes. Yet many professionals are telling us they lack sufficient training and information to appropriately deal with suspected neglect. The Government must listen to what is being said and act to support early intervention."

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EARLY INTERVENTION IS NEEDED: Professionals warn child neglect is on the increase in the North East
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 13, 2009
Words:630
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