Children in the isles are just as likely to be at risk of abuse or neglect as elsewhere in the country, health officials were warned today.
A report before members of Shetland NHS board found 26 children’s names were on the child protection register for Shetland at some point during the last financial year.
Ten names remained on the list by the beginning of April, according to the findings by the Shetland Child Protection Committee.
Children whose names are placed on the register are likely to have experienced, or are at risk of experiencing, significant physical injury, physical neglect, emotional abuse and/or sexual abuse.
There is serious doubt about the parents’ ability to protect their children or care for them better.
Director of public health Dr Sarah Taylor told board members Shetland was no different from anywhere else.
There was general concern among members the isles – still considered a peaceful place – was on a par with other locations down south.
The report says Lerwick faces “similar challenges to law and order experienced in many larger towns elsewhere in Scotland”.
“Shetland has significant issues with problem substance use, with increasing awareness of the harm caused by alcohol consumption as well as by the illegal use of other substances.”
It adds that the prevalence of known child abuse, as reflected in percentages of under-16s on the child protection register, is generally very similar to that reported nationally – although there can be discrepancies from year to year because of low overall numbers in Shetland from which percentages are calculated.
The isles are often above or below the national average as a result.
In December 2009 the Child Protection Committee (CPC) considered the Scottish government child protection statistics for 2008-09 and compared them with those in Shetland CPC’s annual report for the same period.
At 2.6 per cent Shetland had slightly below the national average percentage (2.9 per cent) of children under-16 on its child protection register during that year.
The previous years figures were 3.2 per cent, set against a national average of 2.7 per cent. Meanwhile the year before that was 2.3 per cent as against 2.8 per cent.
A key development this year has been the greater involvement of health professionals in planning how to help children and families at an earlier stage, whether they may have suffered abuse or where they and their families just need extra help.
An approach called “Getting it Right for Every Child” will see agencies work with families to offer support when needed.
Dr Taylor said much was done locally to protect children who may be vulnerable.
“We do a lot of work locally to make sure we respond appropriately and effectively to safeguard children who may be at risk.”
Chairman of Shetland NHS Ian Kinniburgh said it was a “sobering thought” to realise Shetland has similar child protection issues to elsewhere in the country, particularly given recent high-profile cases that have been in the national media.