BARNSLEY is one of 19 areas in the country featured in research into men who deliberately injure and abuse babies.

The government report, titled ‘The Myth of Invisible Men’, focuses on the circumstances of children younger than one year old who have been ‘harmed or killed by their fathers or other males in a caring role’.

It uses interviews with male prisoners, and fieldwork involving 23 babies notified to the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel including in Barnsley.

Barnsley’s Child Death Overview Panel has reviewed 14 deaths, ten of which were classed as unexpected, across four meetings held during 2020/21.

The majority of cases involved children under one year old, with ages ranging from ten days to 17 years.

The panel’s report said there is an ‘urgent need’ for safeguarding systems to recognise men who may be a risk to babies – with men more than twice as likely to be perpetrators of harm and abuse.

“For this group of men, the role that they play in a child’s life, their history of parenting and their own experiences as children and how this effects them as adults, are too frequently overlooked by the services with responsibilities for safeguarding children and for supporting parents,” said the report.

“There is evidence that universal services, such as midwifery and health visiting, during the periods before and immediately after birth, do not regularly, significantly and substantially involve fathers.

“This then appears to set a pattern in practice which is replicated throughout targeted and specialist services, and into the family courts.

“The opportunity for offering support to men who might need it in their role as fathers, for early identification of both parental and children’s vulnerabilities, and potential risks that these indicate, are not maximised.”

The review concludes more research into male perpetrators needs to be done – factoring in issues such as substance abuse and mental health – and government funding needs to be targeted to develop provision, identify risk factors and integrate children’s and adults’ services.