The reasons behind the rise in referrals to children’s services in Carmarthenshire

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The number of contacts to children’s services in Carmarthenshire rose by 19% during the first coronavirus lockdown.

Councillors were also told that the number of safeguarding contacts increased by 26%.

These rises between the end of March and June were not matched, however, by an increase in looked-after children or additions to the child protection register.

The figures were given in a report before the council’s education and children scrutiny committee.

Gareth Morgans, director of education and children’s services, said he understood that across Wales there had generally been a reduction in referrals.

He said this may not have been the case in Carmarthenshire because children’s services continued during the lockdown, with direct support provided.

Head of children’s services, Steffan Smith, said: “We have seen a general increase – there is no doubt about that. I think we were expecting that.”

Cllr Darren Price asked what level of contact there was with children during the lockdown.

Mr Smith said fewer visits took place in general, and that families had been graded red, amber or green on a priority basis.

“We made sure that in spite of lockdown, people would continue to visit – obviously using risk assessments,” he said.

Virtual support was provided, he said, to other children.

Explaining the increase in contacts to the service, Mr Smith said families which relied on preventative support in normal times could end up requiring more direct support as pressures and stresses increased during the lockdown.

He said this pattern was likely to continue for a while.

Mr Morgans said all vulnerable learners were evaluated at the start of the lockdown and that specialist childcare hubs were opened.

Councillors praised the work of education and children’s services staff.

The meeting also heard that the number of children eligible for free school meals in Carmarthenshire rose by 13.5% between January and July. But the committee report said the increase could be attributed to the way free school meals were distributed during lockdown.

Meanwhile, counselling referrals for children and young people dropped significantly.

Mr Morgans said it was probably easier for pupils to access counselling when it took place at school.

Counselling was now available, he said, for year five and six learners in primary school.

He added: “We are monitoring very carefully how many children access it, and making sure schools are promoting that it’s available.”



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