More than 400 children at risk in county

A TOTAL of 410 children in Suffolk are considered to be vulnerable to harm, latest figures show today.

A TOTAL of 410 children in Suffolk are considered to be vulnerable to harm, latest figures show today.

The figure, which represents the number of children subject to child protection plans, shows a fall of 70 since March this year (480) although it is up on the number of children considered at risk in March 2007 (390).

Meanwhile around 740 children in the county are currently in care - the highest figure in three years.

The statistics come as it emerged vulnerable children in Suffolk are at greater risk of abuse because of overburdened social workers and high vacancy rates.

In a report to Suffolk County Council, head of children's services Rosalind Turner said £9.2million has already been slashed from the budget in the past three years and further cuts are becoming harder to find without axing services.

She also claimed current pressures threaten to undermine social workers' ability to maintain and develop preventative services such as child protection.

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She said in her report: “The higher level of vacancies has resulted in greater caseloads for front line social workers.” Ms Turner's words of warning coincide with Haringey Council issuing a formal apology over the horrific death of Baby P.

The 17-month-old boy was left to be tortured by his mum and two men - despite being on the authority's "at risk" list.

Cliff James, head of safeguarding children at Suffolk County Council, said the numbers of children subject to child protection plans fluctuates but around 500 children go into and come out of the system each year.

He said they are monitored regularly to assess their welfare.

Mr James added: “Our aim is to work with the family to reduce the level of risk so we can be confident they are safe and their parents are meeting their needs. They don't stay there forever.

“Cases are reviewed initially after three months and then every six months to assess whether the level of risk has reduced or not.

“Most children come off the plan within a year - it is a big decision to place a child on a plan.”

Mr James said around 20 children are placed into care each month while on the flip side a similar number of children leave care each month.

“We have about 740 children looked after but not all of them suffer from significant harm - they come in for a range of reasons.

“It may be because they have a disability or health issues.”

n. Are you concerned by the numbers of children deemed to be at risk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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