More than 150 unborn babies have been put on the ‘at risk’ register in the Southern Health Trust region within the last five years.
Almost 800 child protection plans have been initiated before births since 2009 across Northern Ireland, including 270 last year.
Concerns about potential neglect or sexual, physical or emotional abuse are among the reasons why social workers have taken action while mothers are still pregnant.
Last year in the Southern Trust region there were 47 unborn babies on the at risk register, almost double that of the year before. In 2011 there were 24 Child Protection Plans initiated for unborn babies.
During the previous year 2010 there were 31 unborn babies regarded as ‘at risk’ while in 2009 there were 26.
So far this year in 2013 a total of 23 unborn children are on the Child Protection Plan register.
The Southern Trust has had a total of 151 unborn babies on this register since 2009. In the Belfast Trust there were 300 and in the South Eastern Trust 156. The Western Trust had 96 while the Northern Trust, who did not provide figures for each year, had a total of 64 unborn babies on the ‘at risk’ register, according to statistics provided to the Irish News.
Paul Morgan, Director of Children and Young People’s Services at the Southern Trust, said: “In the current year to date 23 unborn babies have been placed on the ‘at risk register’. Over recent years there has been a consistent rise in the number of referrals into Child Care services in the Southern Trust area.” He added that the introduction of a new ‘framework ensures that protection needs are identified and assessed and that appropriate protection plans are put in place’.