Baby Cameron in protection review

Baby Cameron in protection review

The mother of a baby murdered by his father has spoken out after a new report, which examined his death, revealed the number of young people on the child protection register in Northern Ireland has risen by 18% in six years.

Sheree Black's son Cameron was just 14 weeks old when he was murdered in 2008 by his father Ryan Leslie, who is now serving a minimum of 17 years behind bars for the crime.

Cameron's death was just one incident investigated by Queen's University and the NSPCC in a first of its kind review of child protection issues in the region.

The report hopes to provide better safeguards for children who are at risk by finding out how they can be protected as early as possible.

It found a total of 2,127 children were listed as being at risk last year, compared to 1,805 during 2007.

Nearly 36,000 recommendations were made referring around 28,000 children to Health and Social Care Trusts, but the majority of these children were never in danger of death or serious injury.

It also found the number of children dying as a result of abuse and neglect decreased dramatically because of a strong child protection system.

A team led by Dr John Devaney from Queen's University investigated 24 case reviews that involved the death or serious injury of a child between 2003 and 2008.

We get involved earlier and stay involved for longer so that the improvements that many families do make when they get the right support, are sustained in the longer term.

Dr Devaney

That included the death of four children because of physical or sexual assault, six infants who died unexpectedly for which there was no cause established and eight young people who died by suicide or accident.

The majority of the children subject to a review were living in families where parents were experiencing difficulties with their mental health, alongside misuse of alcohol or drugs, and domestic violence.

"These adult difficulties reduced the capacity of parents to meet their child's needs, and often resulted in children being exposed to risks as a result of lack of care and supervision, a chaotic family lifestyle and inappropriate physical and sexual behaviour towards children by adults," said the review.

Sheree Black said how her son's case was reviewed means Cameron's legacy lives on.

"It's helpful to know that his case is going to maybe prevent things like this happening in the future with other children," she told UTV.

It's good to know that Cameron is helping others even though he's not here.

Sheree Black

Dr Devaney said it is encouraging to know that over the past 40 years child deaths from all causes, including neglect and abuse have decreased dramatically from 600 down to around 200.

"Whilst we can never rule out that some children may die because of a lack of care provided by their family or parents, what we were able to indentify in the report is that we have a better chance of providing greater support to families if we get involved at an earlier stage," he explained.

Dr Devaney said some failures in child protection were occurring when services dealt with adults in isolation of their wider family circumstances.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said the review provides "invaluable learning" for the protection and safeguarding of children and Northern Ireland.

"The rate of non-accidental child deaths continues to fall. In my view, a strong child protection system has contributed positively to this reduction in numbers - and we owe it to future generations to continue to do what we do well, and to strengthen the system where it transpires we need to."

The review deemed another important step forward for protecting children was the creation of the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) in September last year.

The independently chaired board promotes co-ordination in the protection and safeguarding of children across the health, social care, education, justice, voluntary and community sectors.

Case management reviews are now a function of the SBNI and required by law for the first time in Northern Ireland.


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