THE number of children being put on section 47 orders – issued when a child is considered at risk of serious harm – is higher in West Berkshire than the majority of other local authorities.
In July 2016, 143 section 47 orders per 100,000 people were issued by West Berkshire Council, compared to the national average of 138 and regional average of 120.
When a call comes into the council, the level of risk to a child is determined based on the information that they receive.
All calls are logged, but only those that are considered serious enough for further action to be taken are referred.
If a child is deemed to be at serious risk of harm, the council can issue a section 47 order, which then alerts the police and other organisations.
Vulnerable children can then, if necessary, be placed on protection plans or be taken into care.
The majority of referrals the council receives are from professionals, such as schools, clubs and social workers – but anyone with a concern can contact the local authority.
The council’s director of children’s services, Rachael Wardell, said: “We receive a wide range of calls.
“It could be from a member of the public saying they have seen someone smacking their child in the street.
“Of course, when you see a high figure like this it is a slight concern and we are looking at why, because it doesn’t seem to make sense.
“If the number of looked-after children and children on protection plans is going down, you’d expect the section 47s to be going down as well, but that isn’t the case.”
When asked if she felt the council was issuing section 47 orders unnecessarily, she said: “There is no evidence that I can see to suggest that we are doing anything wrong or being heavy-handed.
“But we are doing a lot of scrutiny to make sure we are not making any weak decisions or issuing section 47s when they don’t necessarily need to be made.
“We don’t want to discourage people from phoning in if they think a child is at any risk of harm.
“If you are worried about a child always call us.
“We’d much rather that than people sitting at home worrying about something they’ve seen.”