Belfast Telegraph

Appalling number of Northern Ireland children at risk

By Lisa Smyth

Over 1,000 children in Northern Ireland are at risk of neglect, according to official figures.

There are 2,071 children on the child protection register and half of them have been assessed as being at risk of neglect.

This does not necessarily mean the parent or guardian is deliberately attempting to harm the child.

Neglect is defined as the persistent failure to meet a child’s physical, emotional and psychological needs, likely to result in harm.

This could be for a range of reasons, such as not feeding the child properly or failing to take them to the doctor when required.

Each health trust maintains a child protection register on which children considered to be at risk of harm are included. This can be as a result of neglect or something more specific like abuse.

Now the NSPCC has warned the Government must protect the social services budget or risk putting even more children in danger.

There is speculation Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has convinced his Assembly colleagues to ring-fence the health budget but the same protection is not extended to the budget which pays for social services.

Colin Reid of the NSPCC said: “There is concern that at a time of recession we will lose programmes which work at preventing neglect.

“If we are in a position where we don’t continue to invest in these services, we could see more children suffering from neglect. It is much better to intervene at an early stage.

“Essentially, neglect can lead to the death of a child. If we don’t pick these problems up early they can become much worse.”

Mr Reid also said cutbacks in staff numbers lead to increased pressure on healthcare professionals which could mean they miss warning signs of neglect.

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