Number of children dying falls across the Black Country

The number of children dying in the Black Country fell by more than a dozen last year, latest data has revealed.

Members of Walsall Council's health and wellbeing board were told the town had the second lowest number of child deaths in the Black Country in 2020/21.

Stephen Gunther, Walsall’s director of public health said there were 17 deaths in Walsall in 2020/21 compared with 32 in 2019/20.

This helped contribute to an overall reduction in the Black Country for the year.

Dudley had 13 deaths in 2020/21 compared with 24 recorded 12 months earlier while Wolverhampton remained unchanged with 21.

Sandwell was the only borough to see an increase, with 34 deaths recorded – four more than in 2019/20.

Of the 17 deaths in Walsall, 13 of them were of babies aged under a month. There were two more aged between 28 and 364 days, one child aged between one and four-years-old and and a teenager aged between 15 and 17.

Mr Gunther said work is being carried out to tackle issues such as sleeping practice, substance abuse and neglect that can lead to baby deaths.

Walsall had one ‘unexpected death’ which has been recorded as a probable suicide until an inquest is held by the coroner.

Of the 85 child deaths across the Black Country, 23 were classed as unexpected, with five in Dudley, six in Wolverhampton and 11 in Sandwell.

The probable causes included suicide or probable suicide, unsafe sleep elements, medical causes and road traffic collisions.

Mr Gunther said: “We’ve seen over the last year or so a 50 per cent reduction which is great. The question is can we sustain that? What else can we do?

“Those deaths have shifted predominantly to under one year, in the first month of life.

“Factors are particularly around sleeping practice, actions, substance misuse in parents whether that be drugs or alcohol, neglect, safeguarding, smoking in the household and overcrowding in homes.

“Those are the factors which can drive high infant mortality and wide societal factors particularly around the child poverty and deprivation.”

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