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Vulnerable families impacted by illicit activities rise, says social work boss

A boom in illicit activities, including organised crime and drug dealing, has seen concerns grow for vulnerable families says a former social work boss.

Jonathan Hinds, West Dunbartonshire’s former chief social work officer, made the claims in his annual report.

He outlined how “an emerging trend” had been observed, of: “an escalation of organised crime activity related to drug dealing, exploitation, violence and domestic abuse”, over the past 12 months.

Mr Hinds, who recently left his post, took over the helm in 2018.

But in his final report, which was presented to a full meeting of the authority last month, he outlined how the rise in serious crime links had led: “Staff and managers to continue to work closely with police and other colleagues to support better planning for vulnerable children, young people and women affected by this activity.”

The report also revealed that domestic abuse was the single biggest contributory factor in youngsters being placed on the Child Protection Register in 2020/21 – as it was the previous year.

But he tells how the risk “increased during 2020/21”, which may be as a result of: “the impact of lockdown restrictions on perpetrator behaviour and risk to individuals is also likely to have been a significant contributory factor”.

Parental mental health concerns are billed as being the second biggest contributory factor, with 41 percent of children placed on the register over such worries – 15 percent up on the year before, with the pressures of lockdown, school closures and the inability of families to socialise outwith the family home being credited as contributing to the sharp rise with this having an: “impact on presenting mental health problems in children, young people and their parents”.

The toll the coronavirus crisis reaped on families is also said to be behind an increase in youngsters being placed on the register over concerns surrounding parental drugs misuse – up from 28 percent in 2019/20 to 39 percent in
2020/21.

Papers reveal that “despite the challenges” thrown up for agencies since March 2020, “services have continued to work together to reduce the risk to children and young people”.

Partner agencies were also credited with improving access to digital communications, by providing devices such as iPads so vulnerable families had access to online learning.

The move also meant families could continue to “receive contact from agencies”, whether by means of virtual support or to attend meetings such as child case protection conferences, which had moved online.

Mr Hinds added: “The most vulnerable children in West Dunbartonshire have continued to receive robust support from our partners and young people where emotional wellbeing issues have been prioritised.

“Our Specialist Children’s Services focused on a quick response for those young people with mental health problems who were most at
risk.

“In addition, visits were also made to families to ensure they had the resources they needed prior to lockdown, to minimise the negative impact lockdown would cause.”

Education hubs also provided a platform for social serviced during lockdown and provided places for youngsters affected by the “risk and impact of domestic abuse”.

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