The Association of Directors of Children’s Services has cast doubt on a claim, widely reported in today’s newspapers, that more children are being assaulted as a result of the cost of putting children into care.
ADCS president Marion Davis said there was insufficient evidence for the claim, pointing out that the number of children entering care was in fact increasing.
In its annual survey of emergency departments in England in Wales, Cardiff University’s Violence and Society Research Group reported an 8% rise in violence affecting those aged 0 to 10 years compared with 2008.
“Everything is speculation at this point, but a rise in the cost of care is the only potential explanation that seems to hold,” Professor Jonathan Shepherd, an author of the report, told Community Care. The high cost of taking children into care, he argued, means that children remain in violent families for longer.
Shepherd said the cost of care started rising in 2006 with the first instance of an increase in violence towards this age group following in 2007. While the figure was down in 2008, Shepherd said this latest rise in 2009 showed the increase could be more than a “statistical blip”.
Davis rejected the care cost link put forward by Shepherd and was unconvinced by the report’s conclusions.
“There is insufficient information in the report to start identifying the causes of this rise, although it certainly warrants further investigation,” she said. “It is not even clear if these figures do reveal an increase in abuse of children – the violence could have been perpetrated by another child, for example.
“Applications for care proceedings and the numbers of children entering the care system are steadily increasing, as our own research shows, so it seems unlikely that the rise can be attributed to a reluctance to bring proceedings when children are at risk. A recent independent review of fees for care proceedings concluded that councils were not leaving children at risk due to the cost of bringing care proceedings.
Davis suggested that an alternative explanation might be that health professionals are more aware of their responsibilities in identifying injuries as the result of abuse and as a result are reporting them as violent incidents where previously they were reported as accidental.
Davis said this would suggest that children who do suffer abuse and present with injuries are more likely to be identified and referred to social services for support.