Number of child deaths in the Black Country is on the rise

The number of children dying has increased across most of the Black Country, new data has revealed. A report to Walsall Council's Health and Wellbeing Board confirmed that between April 1 2022 and March 31 2023, there were 128 deaths of children under the age of 18 in the Black Country.

Walsall, Wolverhampton and Dudley saw an increase in child death notifications from the previous year and while Sandwell's figure remained the same, it is the highest of all four areas. The report added there has been a steady increase in the number of child deaths since 2020.

Figures showed Sandwell had 40 child deaths in 2022-23, while Dudley recorded 35 (compared with 27 in 2021-22). Walsall recorded 29 in 2022-23, a rise of 11 from the previous year, while Wolverhampton had 24 - 13 more than 2021-22.

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Of the 128 child death notifications, 57 were aged 0-27 days, 22 were aged 28-364 days, 16 were in the 1-4 years age range, 16 were aged 5-9 years and 17 notified child deaths were in children aged 10 years and over. The Black Country Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP) has reviewed 96 of the 128 deaths with the remaining cases still under review and are taking longer due to the need for further investigations.

The panel looks to identify 'modifiable factors' which have caused deaths and shares findings and learn lessons for preventing them in the future. Smoking, alcohol and substance misuse and maternal obesity were identified as common factors in perinatal and neonatal deaths.

The report said unsafe sleeping arrangements was also a major factor in sudden or unexpected child deaths. The report to the board said: "Every child death is a devastating loss that profoundly affects the family involved.

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"In addition to providing support to families and carers, staff involved in the care of the child should also be considered and offered appropriate help. The Black Country CDOP comprises senior multi-agency professionals who have knowledge and expertise in fields such as children's social care, paediatrics, police, public health and education.

"With an independent Chair and representatives from all commissioner and provider organisations across the Black Country, its aim is to learn lessons and share findings around the prevention of child deaths. Learning lessons from CDOP activity is a priority and will have a positive impact on the future safety, health and wellbeing of children and young people, ensuring that learning is shared widely across the area, as well as regionally and nationally.

"The CDOP is responsible for identifying modifiable factors. These modifiable factors would not mean the death was preventable, but there may be emerging trends that could reduce the risk of future child deaths. Where a factor has been identified as potentially relevant to the child’s vulnerability or contributed to the child’s death, the Panel can discuss if there is a local and/or national intervention in place or that could be recommended to reduce the risk of future child deaths."

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