Public vigilance sees child abuse cases soar in Scotland

30 Sep 2006

REPORTS of the number of children suspected of being sexually abused shot up onethird last year, it was revealed yesterday.

More than 300 youngsters were put on Scotland’s national child
protection register because of sex abuse or the risk of it as part of a
massive wave of new referrals to social workers.

Experts said the rise was explained by increasing vigilance. However,
they warned social work children’s services were straining to cope with
the spiralling caseload.

Some 2791 children were registered for protection in 2005-06, 48-per
cent more than 19992000, according to statistics compiled by the
Scottish Executive. Figures in the last year alone rose 24-per cent for
physical abuse to 779; 33-per cent for sexual abuse to 301 and 18-per
cent for emotional abuse to 442. In nearly four out of five cases, the
child’s known or suspected abuser was his or her natural parent.

The number of children registered because they were physically
neglected rose 20-per cent to 1243, partly because of a leap in the
number of youngsters found to be at risk in the homes of drug addicts in

Robert Brown, Deputy Education Minister, said: “No child should have
to suffer the horror of abuse. Any who do must be quickly identified and
get the help they need to ensure that they are safe and protected.
These statistics tell us that this is happening.”

But Scotland’s most senior social work officials last night struck a
less optimistic note. They said the figures partly explained a funding
gap of more than GBP160m a year identified for core children’s services
byProfessor Arthur Midwinter, whose report was revealed by The Herald

Mr Midwinter warned the financial shortfall, if ignored, would top
GBP207m by the end of the decade and said councils were already raiding
other budgets to meet their statutory obligations to children.

Michelle Miller, who chairs the Association of Directors of Social
Work’s committee on children and families, is well aware of Mr
Midwinter’s funding gap. She said: “We are all getting better at
identifying and acknowledging children at risk. But this puts an immense
pressures on services that are there to protect children. We are simply
not resourced to cope with the increases in the number of children at

The Scottish Executive angrily dismissed the findings of Mr Midwinter,
saying his report was based on “incomplete data” and therefore
“misleading”. Officials argued councils were getting extra money for
children’s services, but Ms Miller said extra cash, however welcome, was
ring-fenced for extra services.

Asked if the executive would consider more funding to help local
authorities deal with the rising tide in referrals for abuse and
neglect, a spokeswoman yesterday said: “Councils now receive record
levels of funding and they are best placed to decide how best to deploy
resources. By the end of the current spending review period, social work
grant aided expenditure (GAE) provision will have increased by almost
GBP984m since 1999-2000.”

In figures

Number of children registered following a case conference (Figures to March 31)

Type of abuse 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 -per cent of total (2006) -per cent change 2005-06

Physical injury 713 688 644 766 741 628 779 28-per cent 24-per cent

Sexual abuse 286 256 249 310 234 226 301 11-per cent 33-per cent

Emotional abuse 235 270 264 438 434 376 442 16-per cent 18-per cent

Physical neglect 639 558 809 969 1015 1035 1243 45-per cent 20-per cent

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