THE Copeland area is reporting more vulnerable children in care than the county average.

The figures come despite an ongoing battle by top social workers to tackle the crisis, though there are some early indications that the picture is beginning to improve.

The county council’s local committee for the borough also heard that many of those now under a child protection plan had been the victims of “chronic neglect”, with around two per cent already in the system before they are born.

And 64 per cent of those who are subject to a child protection plan are under 10 – a trend social workers have described as “worrying”.

Copeland has 129 looked-after children, a rate of 100 per 10,000 population – considerably higher than the Cumbria rate of 77.

And of the youngsters under a ‘child in need’ plan, 21 per cent have a disability, which means they are likely to be hit harder by traumatic experiences such as domestic violence or neglect.

Lesley Sanczuk, senior manager responsible for children and young people’s services in west Cumbria, updated the committee about the challenges faced by vulnerable families on Tuesday.

Across the county, about 33 per cent of children go straight into being looked after without any earlier intervention from children’s services. But the county council and its partners are now focusing on early help in a bid to work with vulnerable families to head off the crisis.

The authority has now established a multi-agency team including social workers, representatives from the third sector and health and wellbeing coaches to offer an “intensive package” of early support to families.

The new model was only established in June but has already “proved effective in the short term”, said Ms Sanczuk. She stressed that it was still early days, but that the picture was more “stable” than it had been previously.

And while social workers have seen a rise in the number of children subject to a child-in-need plan, committee members heard that this could be a “positive”.

She added that it might mean social services were getting to children and families at that important early stage before the issues became “too entrenched”.

There are more than 400 open cases in Copeland including 129 children in care, 20 care leavers; 96 under a child protection plan; and 112 under a child-in-need plan.

Across west Cumbria as a whole there are around 1,100 cases.