Child protection leaders in Glasgow have confirmed that a youngster’s death during the pandemic will be investigated.
A Fatal Accident Inquiry is to take place after a child died in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde board area.
Officials documents also reveal there were delays in arranging crisis meetings between police, social services and the health board, which decide if concerns about abuse or neglect should be investigated.
They should be arranged within 24 hours but were taking up to six days.
Child protection referrals in the board area are said to have risen by 53%.
It follows widespread concern about the effects of the pandemic on vulnerable children and families.
Child Protection Scotland said the closure of schools and nurseries had put children at increased risk of abuse, while face-to-face meetings between social workers and families were also reduced.
Donna Hunter, Head of Public Protection for NHSGGC, said during a meeting of the board that she had been advised by the Procurator Fiscal that a child’s death will subject to a fatal accident inquiry.
She said that she had met with colleagues in the Central Legal Office, but “was yet to be advised of the specifics of the case.”
Ms Hunter said the health board had recruited an additional four nurses for the child protection team which was allowing the unit to hold child protection meetings within 24-48 hours.
A spokeswoman for the health board said she was unable to provide any further details about the case. The Herald contacted all the local authorities in the board area and of those Glasgow said they had not been notified about a fatal accident inquiry, while Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde said they were not aware of the case. East Renfrewshire did not respond and West Dunbartonshire Council said it was a matter of The Crown Office and could not comment.
It comes amid fresh warnings that vital services that protect vulnerable children from harm are facing a staffing crisis.
The latest workforce data shows the number of social workers leaving in 2021 was 4,995, an increase of 16 per cent on the previous year.
Social Work Scotland said the lack of visibility of children during the pandemic had been a “significant concern” for practitioners.
A report found that while critical services continued and the most vulnerable children were prioritised, the reduction in contact with children meant issues could not always be picked up.
“This included impact on children’s development as well as areas such as domestic abuse, isolation of new parents, or family stress.
“For some groups such as young carers, those subject to sexual exploitation and those impacted by bereavement, the hidden nature of their role was exacerbated.”
NHSGGC said the rise in child protection referrals was linked to domestic abuse cases and said the figure was reflected nationally.
Joanna Barrett, Associate Head of Policy (Devolved Nations), NSPCC Scotland, said: “The events of the last two years have profoundly affected so many lives, and we know the huge pressure on families, combined with schools being closed to most children and the disruption to protective services, increased the risk of child abuse and neglect.
“In the year following the outbreak of Covid-19, our NSPCC helpline saw a 40% increase in the number of referrals it made to agencies such as local authorities and the police.
“Now as we come out of the pandemic, it’s crucial that all families who need it can access intensive support.
“In addition, the Scottish Government needs to invest in specialist services which support the parent-child relationships so all parents in Scotland are enabled to give their children the best start in life.”