Children listed as at risk of abuse fall by 16 per cent

THE number of children considered at risk of neglect or abuse and named on child protection registers kept by social services departments in England fell by 16 per cent in the year to March 1993.

The drop compared with the previous year may be a result of the Children Act 1989, which came into effect in October 1991. It states that social workers must work more closely with families and review each case on the register every six months.

The Department of Health said yesterday there were about 32,500 names on the registers - about 24,700 names were added and 29,400 taken off.

A breakdown of the figures shows that 37 per cent of those on registers were considered at risk of physical injury, 26 per cent at risk of sexual abuse and 26 per cent at risk of neglect; 11 per cent were registered under the category 'emotional abuse' and 8 per cent under 'grave concern'.

The county with the most children registered is Lancashire, with 731 - 160 at risk of neglect, 355 of physical injury, 228 of sexual abuse, 43 of emotional abuse and 61 causing grave concern. Kent has 702 children registered.

The patterns of registration, by age and sex, were similar to previous years.

Of the 42,600 children who were the subject of initial child protection conferences 24,700, or 58 per cent, were placed on a register. Of those registered as at risk of 'physical injury', 54 per cent were boys while 63 per cent of those considered at risk from 'sexual abuse' were girls.

Numbers of registers rose from 41,200 in 1989 to a peak of 45,300 in 1991 and then fell to 38,600 in 1992. Numbers recorded under the category 'grave concern' also peaked at 21,100 in 1991 and have now fallen to 2,700 in 1993, a cut of 87 per cent.

But numbers of children recorded as at risk of other forms of abuse such as physical or sexual have increased from 24,200 in 1991 to 29,700 in 1993, an increase of 23 per cent.

The Department of Health said: 'The signs that figures have gone down are encouraging. As part of the Children Act, six-monthly reviews have to be made so children should not be staying on the register for longer than necessary.'

But some local authorities are still keeping children on the register for long periods: 48 per cent of children registered in North Tyneside have been on the register for more than three years; 46 per cent in the London borough of Lambeth; and 43 per cent in Hackney.