More than one in six children in East Renfrewshire are referred to social care before their fifth birthday, it has been revealed.

A new study published by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) also found that one in 44 youngsters in the council area are investigated over concerns about child protection and one in 72 are subject to compulsory measures of care before they turn five.

Published in the peer-reviewed British Journal of Social Work, the study features data obtained via Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from all 32 local authorities in Scotland.

Conducted in 2019, it asked for details of how many children born in the year ending July 31, 2013, had reached the various stages of the child protection process before their fifth birthday.

The study found that, across Scotland, more than one in four youngsters were referred to social care before the age of five.

It also revealed the likelihood of a child being investigated over their welfare varied between local authorities and was not wholly due to differences in levels of social deprivation.

The likelihood of being investigated for abuse ranged from almost one in five in Clackmannanshire to just over one in 50 in Aberdeenshire.

Andy Bilson, UCLan emeritus professor of social work, said: “This study shows the high rate of social work interventions in children’s lives.

“It also shows that a family’s chance of being investigated for abuse depends very much on where you live. This matters because a range of research and Scotland’s own care review shows how families and children are harmed by being investigated unnecessarily.

“Sadly, even though we are seeing such large numbers of children referred to children’s services, we still see tragic cases of child abuse slip through the net.”

Children’s minister Clare Haughey said the Scottish Government will be “carefully considering” the contents of the study.

She added: “Every child deserves to be loved and protected from harm.

“The most recent statistics show the number of children on the child protection register in Scotland has decreased and is the lowest rate of any nation in the UK. The number of looked-after children is also at its lowest level since 2006.

“Since the period covered by this study, the Scottish Government has introduced whole family wellbeing funding which aims to transform how family support is delivered.”