Child abuse and neglect investigations surge by 60% over 10 years as services reach 'tipping point'

Local authorities urge new figures showing more than 500 child protection inquires began each day last year must be a 'wake up call' for ministers to inject more funding into services

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 12 December 2017 01:03 GMT
More than 500 child protection inquiries began each day last year, compared to around 200 a day 10 years ago, figures show
More than 500 child protection inquiries began each day last year, compared to around 200 a day 10 years ago, figures show (iStock)

The number of investigations into child abuse and neglect started by local authorities has soared by 60 per cent in the last decade, as councils warn children's services are reaching "tipping point".

An analysis of new government figures from by Local Government Association (LGA) shows that more than 500 child protection inquiries began each day last year, compared to around 200 a day 10 years ago.

The findings indicate that a growing number of children in England and Wales are being referred to children’s social care services because of concerns over domestic violence, parental mental health, neglect and physical abuse.

Council leaders say there are a number of reasons for the rise, including increased public awareness and reporting of potential abuse, the impact of poverty and deprivation on families and a lack of funding to help families early on before problems escalate.

But they warn that children’s services — which the LGA says face a funding gap of £2 billion by 2020 — are reaching “tipping point”, and urge that the figures must be a “wake up call” for ministers to inject more funding into early intervention services.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “With councils now starting 500 child protection investigations each day, along with providing the other vital services that they deliver, children’s services have now reached a tipping point.

"This has to be wake up call to government that unless there is an injection of funding to support crucial early intervention services, many more vulnerable children and families will need formal support from council child protection services in the years to come.”

It comes after Freedom of Information figures earlier this year revealed that as many as 140,000 vulnerable children at risk of abuse and neglect were not getting adequate help because local authorities had been forced to shrink or abandon family support.

The figures, obtained by charity Action for Children, showed that in 2015-16, 184,500 children’s needs assessments were closed as “no further action” as they did not meet the threshold for statutory services.

This prompted concerns that opportunities to “act early” and protect youngsters from further harm were being missed because councils did not have the capacity to intervene.

Neglect was the most common initial category of abuse for children who were the subject of a child protection plan last year, accounting for almost half (48 per cent). This was followed by emotional abuse, which accounted for more than a third (34 per cent), the government figures show.

Responding to the latest figures, Eleanor Briggs, head of policy and research at Action for Children, said funding cuts had forced local councils to “shrink or abandon” children’s services designed to help families before problems escalate.

“It’s no surprise therefore that more and more children, young people and families are being referred to social services; even then many of them are not getting the help they need," she added.

“After they are assessed and then closed to social care, the needs of this group of vulnerable children would historically have been met by early help services such as children’s centres or domestic violence programmes – but as these services have been reduced or closed, many now no longer receive any support.

“The status quo simply cannot continue – the Government must address the funding gap for children’s services if we’re are going to step in help children before they reach crisis point.”

Cllr Watts added: “By 2020, our children’s services departments will be facing a funding gap of £2 billion. It was extremely disappointing that last month’s Budget provided no additional funding for children’s services.

"The Government has been warned repeatedly that ongoing funding cuts have left councils struggling to provide the support that vulnerable children and families need. We’ve reached the point where this service can no longer be ignored.”

The Minister for Children and Families, Robert Goodwill, said: “More than £200 billion will be available to councils for local services up to 2020, and councils increased spending on children and young people’s services to over £9 billion in 2015-16.

“Our £200 million Innovation Programme is helping develop new and better ways of delivering children’s services. As part of this, we have announced up to £20 million to support further improvement in children’s social care services.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in