Allegations of child abuse fall in West Sussex

The number of reported allegations made against people working with children in West Sussex fell significantly in 2011/2012.

According to West Sussex County Council’s Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) Annual Report for 2011/2012, the number of allegations progressed dropped from 196 in 2009/10 to 165 in 2010/11, to 139 this year.

Of those cases, 37 were allegations of sexual abuse, down from 43 last year, 75 for physical abuse, seven for neglect, 11 for emotional abuse, and nine for suitability or conduct.

The 122 outcomes for the year saw 34 claims substantiated, 54 unsubstantiated, 27 unfounded, and seven classed as deliberately invented.

A spokesperson for WSCC said: “There has been a training programme on safer recruitment in place for several years.

“The drop in allegations against a volunteer or member of staff working with children indicates that all agencies are recruiting more wisely and sifting out applicants who may pose a risk to children.”

This comes after an OFSTED report rated the county council’s child protection services as inadequate for the second time in two years back in December 2010.

At the time they pledged immediate action to address the shortcomings highlighted in the report, including the formation of a specialist team to speed-up the rate of progress.

Peter Evans (Con, East Preston and Ferring) current cabinet member for children and families, swapped portfolios with Pete Bradbury (Con, Cuckfield and Lucastes) in January 2011, a month after the OFSTED report.

It then set up a West Sussex Children’s Services Improvement Board, which was tasked with approving, monitoring and challenging the implementation of the improvement plan for children’s services.

The LSCBs were established across the country by the Children Act 2004, and is required by statute to produce an annual report.

Of the estimated 183,000 children in West Sussex, there are currently 183 children subject to child protection plans, of which 83 had mental health issues, 79 suffering from substance misuse, 60 neglect, 98 domestic violence, 12 learning disability, and 30 potential or actual sexual harm. Some were affected by more than one.

119 of the 842 common assessment framework procedures, initiated to assess children’s additional needs and decide how these should be met, were started in the Horsham district.

Meanwhile the number of child deaths of those normally residing in West Sussex rose by 44 per cent to 52, according to the Child Death Overview Panel.

The review process is set up to understand why some children die and wherever possible, put in place interventions to protect other children and to prevent future deaths.

While the majority of child deaths related to infants who died before reaching 28 days of age, and 23 of the 52 deaths reviewed were categorised as resulting from a neonatal event, nine were classed unexpected and were subject to the rapid response process.

On the 44 per cent rise, a spokesperson added: “This efficiency has been achieved by improvements in processes, which have meant that the time between the child’s death and the review has been reduced, so that any lessons that can be learnt are disseminated more quickly.”