CHILD protection cases in East Lancashire – dealt with by hospital experts – have increased by a third in a single year.
NHS officials say there were 910 cases dealt with by their safeguarding children practitioners in the year leading up to September 2012.
That figure was just 273 cases in 2009/10 and 686 last year, showing a steady increase.
Medics believe more sophisticated monitoring methods will have singled out possible abuse cases.
But there are also worries that the axing of support programmes like family intervention work, because of funding cuts, has also been a blow.
Neglect is the most common reason cited behind referrals – but the fallout from domestic violence cases is also becoming a growing concern.
The hospital trust’s board has been told that children have also been left facing a ‘toxic trio’, with substance abuse and mental illness also identified as contributory factors in a number of serious case reviews.
Kathy Bonney, the hospital trust’s safeguarding lead, said in the report: “The safeguarding unit has recognised that this is a worrying trend for service users and the increase does impact on staff capacity to cope with the extra workload.
“Anecdotally (trust) staff are reporting that they are identifying more risks. This could be the result of improved screening tools, which are now embedded, or the shrinking resources of local agencies to support families at a lower level of concern.”
Mrs Bonney said that the East Lancashire position mirrored similar concerns nationally, with record numbers of youngsters currently subject to child protection plans.
Extra staff are being trained in child and adult safeguarding issues at the trust after an unannounced inspection by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission earlier this year.
The trust was told that 80 per cent of staff should be given appropriate safeguarding training. This has been achieved among clinical staff working directly with children and parents.
But among clinical staff, who have less contact with youngsters, and non-clinical workers, the figure is 54 per cent and 62 per cent respectively.