THE number of Wigan children who are at risk from abuse, violence or exploitation has rocketed by almost a quarter in just a year, new figures released by Wigan Council show.
In 2014, 441 youngsters were placed under child protection plans – 80 more than 2013’s figure of 361.
Almost half of these - 212 - were aged under four, with 229 children aged between five and 16. Of the 19,517 under-fours in Wigan, a massive 1,673 have been referred to social services, which equates to eight per cent of youngsters.
And six per cent of five to 16-year-olds are on the social services’ books, showing a total of 2,614 youngsters out of the child population of 44,233.
But a Wigan Council spokesman said the increase is likely to be a result of its extensive work within the Children and Young People Services to support troubled families and to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
Coun Joanne Platt, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “Keeping children and young people safe is one of Wigan Council’s main priorities.
“The number of child protection plans has increased in Wigan borough, and this is in line with national and regional trends with numbers of plans increasing across the country.
“Child protection plans help us to work directly with children, young people and their families; to help and protect them by working with all partner agencies and ensuring access to excellent services in Wigan.
“Our approach to child protection remains a key focus and is a fundamental part of our Deal with residents and our children and young people. We will continue to work hard to ensure children are safe and happy and that we continuously improve our services and approach.”
Tom Rahilly, head of strategy at the NSPCC for looked after children, said: “There may be a combination of factors behind these figures. But we know from our prevalence study that reported child abuse is just the tip of the iceberg of what is really happening.
“The public are more aware than ever of the need to report abuse and there is a commitment to develop professional practice and laws that protect children.
“These figures could therefore simply indicate an increase in the amount of child abuse that is being reported and dealt with.
“But what this does show is that the need for well-targeted resources and early intervention is growing. Through early preventive services we can help decrease the need for statutory intervention at a later date and therefore better protect children and save money in the long term. We can all also play a valuable part in helping to protect children.
“Neighbours, friends and family members who have concerns about a child’s safety can contact the police, social services or the NSPCC 24 hours a day on 0808 800 5000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.”