Concern over ‘significant’ rise of child safeguarding cases in Enfield

Enfield Council’s child safeguarding partnership has seen referrals rise by 28% year-on-year, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Enfield Civic Centre and (inset) Abdul Abdullahi, cabinet member for children’s services
Enfield Civic Centre and (inset) Abdul Abdullahi, cabinet member for children’s services

Enfield Council has seen a “significant increase” in the number of people accessing children’s services as families come under strain from the cost-of-living crisis.

The number of people contacting the council’s safeguarding partnership for early help to support children and prevent issues from worsening jumped by 56% year-on-year in 2022/23 to 3,299, a report reveals.

This led to a 28% increase in the number of referrals, from 479 to 613.

The safeguarding partnership worked with 1,256 families – up by almost two-fifths on the previous year. There were also increases in the number of looked-after children and those with a child-in-need plan.

The figures are set out in the Enfield safeguarding children’s partnership’s annual report, which was presented to a cabinet meeting on Wednesday (18th). The report states that living conditions are “particularly difficult with a cost-of-living crisis being a real difficulty for many families across our borough”.

It adds: “These additional pressures have impacted upon the lives of children within our borough with an increase of referrals.”

Abdul Abdullahi, cabinet member for children’s services, told the meeting that there had been a “significant increase in the number of children accessing children’s services”, adding that the rise in contacts had put “additional pressure on resources”.

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The report sets out progress against the safeguarding partnership’s three priorities – physical abuse, child-on-child abuse and anti-racist practice.

It includes details of work with schools and health providers to help them identify risks and tackle problems such as serious youth violence.

Rick Jewell, cabinet member for environment, quizzed colleagues on operation engage, which aims to prevent offending and reduce serious youth violence by working with young people in police custody.

Officers said the programme helped young people to change their lives when they are at their most vulnerable and can also help to identify those who are being criminally exploited. Under further questioning, they revealed some youngsters were already known to the safeguarding partners.

Cllr Jewell asked what had not been achieved prior to the children ending up in custody. Tony Theodoulou, the council’s executive director of people’s services, said it was not a “realistic expectation” to prevent all children from ending up in custody.

He added: “What we are trying to do is protect all children, particularly those that have been groomed to commit criminal acts by adults.”

Under further questioning, Cllr Abdullahi revealed new technology such as virtual reality is being used to help people explore the impact of trauma, abuse and neglect through the eyes of children in order to help them improve care and support.

The report was approved by cabinet members and will now be sent to a meeting of the full council for approval.

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