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Children's lives filled with 'new and changing threats', Norfolk council boss says

PUBLISHED: 11:52 27 September 2019 | UPDATED: 14:52 27 September 2019

Sara Tough, executive director of children's services at Norfolk County Council. Picture: Julian Claxton Photography

Sara Tough, executive director of children's services at Norfolk County Council. Picture: Julian Claxton Photography

Copyright (c) Julian Claxton Photography 2017.

Council bosses say an increasing number of children are at risk of violence and being caught up in criminal activity in Norfolk.

At a conference hosted by headteachers body Educate Norfolk, Sara Tough, executive director of children's services at Norfolk County Council, said the cost of meeting the needs of children in Norfolk was rising significantly.

She said the proportion of children coming into care in the county is stable, as opposed to rises in other parts of the country.

However, changes in profile of children with child protection plans was putting increasing pressure on services.

She said increasing partnership work between schools and the local authority on issues such as mental health would be important going forward.

"We are seeing more children with disabilities, with increasing needs and very complex needs which incurs a lot of cost, and part of that is because we have a significant gap in the county in terms of provision," she said.

"Although our numbers of children subject to a child protection plan have not changed that much, we are seeing a change in the profile - an increasing number of babies and very young children at risk of physical harm as well as neglect, and an increasing number of children experiencing serious violence and getting involved in criminal activity related to drugs which is posing other different kinds of threats for them.

"I know you are facing it in your own classrooms on a daily basis - the lives children are leading are changing all the time so their behaviour changes as a form of a solution to the adversity they face. That means we have to continuously talk to each other rather than struggle to find a way through.

"None of us could do this on our own."

Speaking to school leaders at the conference at Dunston Hall near Norwich on Friday, Ms Tough said the county council and schools needed to be agile and adaptive to respond to changes in the challenges and risks children faced.

"I believe schools are the most important universal service for children. Schools are consistently there for a significant part of children's development and have become the eyes and ears of what is going on in that local community and how the challenges impact on children's development," she said.

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