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Child allegations rise in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 16:28 15 April 2009 | UPDATED: 08:57 06 July 2010

HIGH profile child protection cases have led to a dramatic rise in the number of allegations against people working with children and young people in Suffolk, it has emerged.

HIGH profile child protection cases have led to a dramatic rise in the number of allegations against people working with children and young people in Suffolk, it has emerged.

Recent examples, including the Baby P case, have prompted new Government guidelines resulting in Suffolk County Council investigating 35pc more cases against among teachers, social workers, child minders and foster carers, in one year.

In 2006/07 the council dealt with 157 allegations compared with 212 allegations in 2007/08. The indications are that the figures are likely to rise further this year, the council's annual review of children's services in the county has revealed.

Cliff James, head of safeguarding at Suffolk County Council, said the new requirements means more rigorous processing of cases.

He said: “Before, only the more serious issues of abuse would have been dealt with in detail by the local authority, more minor incidents would have been dealt with within the setting, through some sort of disciplinary action with a school or other body.”Mr James said high profile cases, including the Soham murders in August 2002 and the recent case of Baby P had played a part in increasing awareness about child protection.

But the National Union of Teachers (NUT) claims more of its members are being black-marked because of the ever-widening definition of child abuse.

Graham White, division secretary of Suffolk NUT, said: “The problem with the situation we are in now is that any allegation - whether proven or not - goes on that teacher's record, goes on their CRB check and to the safeguarding authority.

“We would never condone any type of child abuse, but we are concerned about this 'soft' evidence.”

A new three-year investment programme has been approved by the council aimed at improving child protection services in the county.

The additional £3.8million has been allocated to employ an extra 50 social workers, 30 family support practitioners and other support staff to ensure average workloads are manageable.

But Greg Grant, regional secretary for the social workers union, Unison said high profile cases will deter people from pursuing a career in social work.

He said: “Social workers are damned if they do and damned if they don't. When was the last good news story in the media about social workers?

“They do a very difficult job that none of us would want to do if we had the choice. It is a hugely important job, taking care of some of the most vulnerable people in society. But bad media coverage does put people off.”

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