360 serious child abuse cases in Cumbria, report finds

The Westmorland Gazette: Allan Buckley: "Keeping children safe is everyone's business." Allan Buckley: "Keeping children safe is everyone's business."

NEW figures show over 360 children in Cumbria are receiving special protection from various types of abuse - up 14 per cent on the year previous.

And 154 of those involve children as young as 0 to four years old.

The statistics are contained in the 2011-12 annual report from a body with a role in the protection of children in Cumbria.

Of the 360-plus cases, there were 143 cases of neglect of children in Cumbria, while sexual abuse accounted for 22 cases.

Allan Buckley, head of the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LCSB), said the Jimmy Savile revelations, child abuse allegations at children’s homes in North Wales, and the recent convictions of a Rochdale gang, means people have to be vigilant.

There are an estimated 109,000 children and young people aged between 0 and 19 in Cumbria, representing 22 per cent of the county's population.

Mr Buckley said: “These recent scandals have really drawn attention to the importance of listening to children, and acting on their concerns.

“What I think comes across so strongly is that there were people who appeared to know what was going on, but they did not act. Some claim even to have seen abuse taking place but stayed silent.

“And on top of that, we’ve heard that when children raised the issue themselves they simply weren’t listened to.

“I really want people to remember that keeping children safe is everyone’s business. It’s not just the police, social services or doctors, we all have a responsibility to look out for children and act if something doesn’t seem right.”

He suggested people could raise suspicions with GPs, teachers or police officers.

The LSCB says it co-ordinates, oversees and challenges the work of organisations that are responsible for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.

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The call for vigilance comes on the back of the publication of the LSCB’s Annual Report for 2011/12.

However, the report revealed grounds for improvement in the LSCB's own work, finding: “There was limited evidence of critical thinking around cases, eg a belief by professionals that young people placed in care /residential schools are safe solely on the grounds that they are placed.”

County councillor Anne Burns, member for Children’s Services, said: “I know that organisations in Cumbria are absolutely committed to working together to protect and safeguard children. But professionals need the public to be vigilant and help them, by providing information and raising concerns where they have them”

The report can be found www.cumbrialscb.com. Anyone with concerns about a child can ring 0333 2401727 to speak to social services.

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