‘Murder and criminal exploitation’: Council report shows sharp rise in children being referred to emergency social services across east London
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The number of children across Redbridge, Havering and Barking and Dagenham being referred to an emergency social services team for high profile crimes such as murder, criminal exploitation or child sexual exploitation rose sharply last year according to a new report.
Children's Emergency Duty Teams (EDTs) are small teams of senior professional social workers that provide a first response for boys and girls under the age of 18 who find themselves at immediate risk of harm.
Across the four east London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge and Waltham Forest, the EDT service for young people has been managed by Redbridge Council since 2014.
It was launched to help provide savings, as economies of scale meant it made more financial sense for one larger EDT to operate than for each council to pay for its own individually.
The original arrangements introduced in 2014 were reviewed in 2017 and all four boroughs agreed to continue, but that extension will end on March 31 this year.
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Next Tuesday (February 11), Redbridge Council's cabinet will hear a report on proposals to again extend the four-borough EDT arrangement - this time until March 31 2023.
As part of that extension process, a report has been prepared to go before councillors that shows the true extent of the work the four-borough EDT has faced over the last five years.
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In 2014/15 the newly-created EDT received 12,381 contacts, but by 2017/18 contacts had risen by 61pc, to 19,970.
The report, prepared by Redbridge Council as it operates the service, shows a small dip last year to 19,494 contacts, but points out that overall, because the severity of referrals has increased, officers' workloads have grown year-on-year.
It says: "In the year ending March 2019, the EDT service started to receive contacts where the concerns were more complex such as contextual safeguarding concerns pertaining to children being arrested for murder and other high level crimes, criminal exploitation and child sexual exploitation.
"This meant that although the number of contacts had slightly decreased from the previous year, in real terms the workload had increased."
The three most common reasons for urgent referrals are listed as children absent from care, missing from care or child welfare concerns.
Statistics are also given to show how much use of the emergency service has changed for each London borough since 2014.
Havering has gone from generating the fewest contacts with the service in 2014/15 - when it got in touch with the EDT 2,672 times - to being the team's top contact in 2018/19 when it generated 6,212 contacts.
That's a rise of 132pc over five years.
In Barking and Dagenham, contacts have risen from 2,916 to 4,759 (78pc) in the same period.
Redbridge has stayed the most consistent over the five years, rising by just 15pc from 2,916 contacts in 2014/15 to 3,340 in 2018/19.
And Waltham Forest, which was the largest contributor of referrals when the service started in 2014/15, has seen contacts rise by 38pc, from 3,671 to 5,079, in the same period.
The service's overall budget for 2019/20 was £866,000, with each partnering local authority paying slightly different amounts depending on how it uses the service.
Waltham Forest paid £269,000, Barking and Dagenham £225,000, Redbridge £191,000 and Havering £165,000.
The rest of the funding comes from other local authorities.
However, the report does show an overspend of £113,000 this year, taking the total service cost up to £980,000.
The newly proposed cost going forward into the first year of the extension is £1.052million to be split between the four boroughs.
Each subsequent year, the cost is expected to rise by 2pc due to inflation.
The EDT is currently split between two locations, with one team covering Barking and Dagenham and Havering and the other Redbridge and Waltham Forest.
It is comprised of a full-time service manager, a service coordinator, a data officer, two practice managers and six senior practitioners.