The number of children from the Northern Trust that have been added to the Child Protection Register has grown by 20 per cent in four years.
The child protection register is a confidential list of all children in the area who have been identified as being at significant risk of harm. The reason for any child being placed on the register is due to neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or a combination of these factors.
According to the statistics released by the Public Health Agency, the number of children rose from 34.2 in March 2010 to 42.3 children per 10,000 of population under 18 in December 2014.
This bucks the trend set across NI which shows a 20 per cent decrease in the numbers being added to the register.
459 children are currently on the Child Protection Register in the Northern Trust. Almost 40 per cent of these children fall in the 5-11 year old age range.
The highest proportion of abuse falls in the physical abuse category with 147 of the 459 cases in December 2014 being placed on the register for this reason only. Sexual abuse accounted for 41 cases - almost nine per cent of the total for that period. A further 109 children were placed on the register due to neglect only.
Across the country, 30% of the children on the register at the end of last year were subjected to physical abuse while 27% were suffered from neglect. A further 404 children were added due to a combination of these factors.
The Northern Trust had one of the highest proportions of children on the register for less than a year with just under 70% being taken off the list in December 2014. Only four per cent of children in the Southern region had remained on the register for two years or longer.
A spokeperson for the Northern Trust said: “The Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT) has the largest number of children living in its Trust area in comparison to other Trusts in NI. This equates to 24% of the total number of children living in NI.
“Children whose names are on the register are supported by multi -disciplinary/multi-agency child protection plans which are developed and put into action as far as possible in partnership with the children and families themselves. In around 90% of cases, these plans and the support given result in the child’s name being removed from the register in less than two years.
“The overall numbers on the child protection register fluctuate over time, particularly as people become more attuned to the issue of child protection and are therefore more likely to identify and refer such cases.
“The most important issue for the Trust is that individual children needing to be safeguarded against significant harm receive the appropriate support and protection including in exceptional circumstances when a child becomes ‘looked after’ by the Trust.
“Whilst there has been a recent increase in the number of children on the child protection register in the Trust area there has been a corresponding decrease in the numbers of children being ‘looked after’ by the Trust.”