Child abuse in the Vale of Glamorgan appears to be rising as figures have more than doubled over the past two years.
New figures revealed by the social services department at Vale of Glamorgan council show a stark increase in the number of child protection registrations.
Social services assess different risks to children such as physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse and neglect.
Children who are considered at risk of “significant harm” are registered by social workers on a confidential list shared with authorised people in schools, hospitals and the police.
Each year the Vale council publishes an annual corporate safeguarding report, detailing how the council safeguards and protects vulnerable children and adults. This year’s report went to cabinet on Monday, June 7, and revealed the major increase in protection registrations.
The report said: “There has been a significant increase in the number of initial conferences being held and numbers of children becoming subject to child protection planning.”
Before a child is registered, social services hold a conference with family members, police and health services. Most conferences lead to a registration, but not all.
Last year, Vale social services registered 163 children, a major increase compared to 106 children the previous year, and up from 73 in 2018–19. But the council said there was not a direct link between the pandemic limiting service provision and the stark increases seen recently.
The report added: “While Covid-19 has impacted on services, there is not a direct correlation between limited service provision from partner agencies and the increase. Work is being undertaken to understand factors of this increase and themes experienced across the Vale.”
Domestic violence is a key factor, according to Councillor Ben Gray, cabinet member for social care and health, who spoke about the issue during the cabinet meeting on June 7.
Cllr Gray said: “We have seen an increase in child protection numbers due to the pandemic, with domestic violence playing a significant part.”
Recent research from NSPCC, a child protection charity, showed risks to children could be increasing during the pandemic due to parents becoming more stressed because of Covid-19, and children spending more time online and at home, and less time at school.
The researchers said: “The conditions created by Covid-19 have increased the likelihood that both stressors and vulnerability will increase, at a time when the protective services we normally rely on have been weakened, and families have reduced social support to rely on."
During the coronavirus pandemic, child protection conferences have been held over Microsoft Teams, a video-conferencing platform. This has seen more parents in the Vale participate in conferences than before the pandemic began, when they were held in person.