Sheffield has 285 children at risk

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A TOTAL of 285 children in Sheffield are deemed ‘at risk’ of abuse, harm or neglect and 615 are living in care, The Star can reveal.

Some of the youngsters in care - living in residential homes or with foster families - have been removed from their families because of concerns for their safety.

But most are in the ‘looked after’ system because of bereavement, disabilities, illnesses their parents have or for respite care.

The 285 ‘at risk’ children known to the county’s authorities are subject to ‘child protection plans’ aimed at keeping them safe in their own homes.

The number of plans put in place peaked in 2010 at 458, but the figure dropped to 373 by March last year and to 285 at the end of December.

The plans are put together by a number of agencies, including health, education, social workers, and involve parents agreeing to attend appointments and ensure their children attend school or nursery.

Sheffield Council said it is rare for youngsters to be removed from their homes because the focus is on keeping families together.

Trevor Owen, a senior manager at the council’s Safeguarding Children Service, said a number of high profile child neglect cases in the UK had led to an increase in calls from the public.

He said the fall in the number of child protection plans in Sheffield was down to ‘early intervention and prevention’ work, involving teams of professionals working in communities and identifying families in need of help.

“There has been a re-focusing of services on early intervention and prevention, which means we have teams out in communities where we have different professionals working closely together identifying families showing they have extra needs so that they can be offered support as early as possible,” said Mr Owen.

“We like to think that the decline in the number of child protection plans in place is a reflection of our work on early intervention.

“Only very, very rarely will child protection plans require a child to be removed from parental care - they are about working in co-operation with parents and helping them provide adequate care for their children and giving them support, advice and guidance.

“We talk about child protection more than any other area as needing a multi-agency approach, but a critical element of that is members of the public - we are dependent on them doing the right thing and letting us know of their concerns.”