Large increase in child protection interventions

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Further evidence has emerged of a dramatic increase in the number of children at risk of harm and in need of child protection intervention.

The annual impact report of education charity School-Home Support (SHS) has revealed that the proportion of safeguarding interventions it undertakes has more than tripled in the last six years.

In 2016/17, the charity supported 10,500 children and their families in the South of England, with safeguarding interventions making up 17 per cent of its total number of interventions. This compares to nine per cent in 2015/16 and just six per cent in 2010/11.

The charity blames an increase in schools’ safeguarding responsibilities and a reduction in early help funding, which is used to support a child or family as soon as problems emerge.

This rise in child protection interventions reflects a national trend. Earlier this year, the NSPCC report How Safe Are Our Children? revealed that the number of children subject to a child protection plan in England had risen from fewer than 30,000 in 2002 to more than 63,000 in 2016. There are similar trends in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The NSPCC figures show that in England and Wales neglect remains the most common reason to be subject to a child protection plan or on a child protection register, although there has been an upward trend in the number of cases of emotional abuse.

The SHS report reveals that a fifth of the charity’s child protection interventions involved supporting family’s affected by domestic violence, while 10 per cent related to issues of neglect, and nine per cent to physical abuse.

The report adds: “We have seen a rise in our work with young people affected by gang affiliation and child sexual exploitation. These two areas are often interconnected and young people require intensive support, guidance, and signposting from practitioners.

“We have also seen an increase in practitioners’ work supporting children with mental health issues.”

SHS practitioners work with designated safeguarding leads in schools and with local authorities to support disadvantaged children and families. The charity offers a free support service for schools and aims to help children and families to maximise educational opportunities.

The SHS warns that other possible reasons behind the increase in interventions include safeguarding risks arising as a result of poverty and unsuitable housing, particularly in London, as well as tighter council budgets meaning schools having to take on more responsibility for delivering safeguarding interventions.

Jaine Stannard, chief executive at SHS, said: “This is a staggering rise and shows that our support is needed in schools more than ever. Educational settings need dedicated staff, trained in safeguarding work and properly supervised, to ensure that no child falls through the cracks. Budgets allocated to schools must reflect this.”

Daniel Jarrett, the charity’s safeguarding manager, added: “In my time at SHS, and previously as a social worker, I have seen how easy it is for a family’s challenging situation to become a safeguarding risk – and how important it is that there’s someone looking out for the children in these families. These figures show how vital safeguarding support is.”


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