Stark rise in numbers of children being placed on child protection

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Photo: iStock

The number of children in the child protection system has risen by 80 per cent since 2002, according to figures published by the NSPCC.

The charity’s annual How Safe Are Our Children? report warns that neglect is the most common cause for being subject to a Child Protection Plan (CPPs) or on a Child Protection Register (CPR).

However, it also reveals that all four countries in the UK have seen an increase of recorded sexual offences against children between 2012/13 and 2013/14 – ranging from 12 per cent in Scotland to 39 per cent in England.

It puts the increase down in part to an increased willingness to report abuse because of recent media coverage. However, the report warns that “more children are speaking out, only to find little support to help them recover from abuse”.

The report shows that a total of 570,800 children were referred to social services in England in 2013/14 – the highest number since records began. Most referrals were made by the police (almost 25 per cent), with schools making around 13 per cent. The health services and local authority services each made a similar proportion of referrals too.

In Wales, there were 35,285 referrals (a decrease year-on-year since 2009/10) and in Northern Ireland 40,165 (a year-on-year increase since 2007/08). Figures in Scotland were not available.

Furthermore, at the end of March 2014, 48,300 children in England were subject to CPPs, as were 3,135 in Wales and 1,914 in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, 2,882 children were on a CPR at the end of July 2014. All four figures have increased – in total by 80 per cent – since 2002.

The report also shows a stark increase in contacts by worried adults to the NSPCC’s helpline between 2009/10 and 2014/15. This includes:

  • Calls about neglect up from 5,363 to 17,602.
  • Calls about physical abuse up from 4,226 to 11,650.
  • Calls about sexual abuse up from 3,867 to 8,805.
  • Calls about emotional abuse up from 3,341 to 8,350.

The report states: “This increase in official figures is mirrored by the NSPCC helpline and ChildLine – both of which saw a rise in people coming forward. Helpline contacts have risen every year since 2009/10 – and the nature of these contacts has been increasingly concerning.

“Referrals to statutory agencies this year hit the highest ever peak of 46 per cent of contacts (to the NSPCC helplines).

“For ChildLine, counselling sessions where the main concern was sexual abuse or online sexual abuse accounted for 45 per cent of discussions.”

The report warns that at least another 55,000 clinical therapeutic support places are needed to support victims with high levels of need, such as suicidal or self-harming behaviour. It adds: “While not all children will need this level of help, the current provision of non-clinical early support is also far from sufficient. This is despite evidence that early intervention would be cost-effective in the long-term.”

CEO of the NSPCC, Peter Wanless, said: “These startling figures must not be ignored. As our report shows, the challenges in keeping future generations safe are myriad and complex.

“From the leap in young people being referred to social services, to the number of sexual offences being recorded against children, it is clear that society and government needs to ‘up the ante’ and ensure tackling child abuse is a top priority.

“We believe abuse can be prevented and damaged lives repaired. But for that to happen it is crucial for every single one of us to work together – only then can we prevent abuse by protecting those who cannot protect themselves.”


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