Experts have warned that markers such as hospital admissions could already be showing the impact of rising child protection thresholds.
The warnings follow a Community Care survey of 170 frontline child protection professionals which revealed that more than half had been pressurised to downgrade child protection concerns and not put children on plans.
A significant proportion of respondents reported this had happened in physical and sexual abuse cases, although most involved neglect and emotional abuse.
Figures from the Violence Research Group at Cardiff University show that, for the second year running, the number of hospital admissions for under-11s with injuries as the result of violence rose. This bucks the overall trend for admissions for injuries from violence, which are falling year-on-year.
The team found a 20% rise in under-11s who needed emergency hospital treatment. Although the overall number remains small, the rise follows an 8% increase in 2009.
Dr Jonathan Shepherd, director of the Violence Research Group, said the reason for the rise might be because councils have raised their child protection thresholds and now leave children for longer in at-risk homes.
“We don’t know for sure, but I think it a likely cause if this means children are in less secure environments than they might otherwise be,” Shepherd said.
“What we don’t know is whether the rise reflects a rise in risk for children outside the home. I think we need to make sure that every time a child, of any age, attends A&E and reports an injury related to violence, reasons to or not to invoke safeguarding procedures are recorded in the patient’s notes.”
Reconstruct, an organisation that has been involved in the serious case reviews of 32 children since 2007, said none of the children in the SCRs had been on a child protection plan or register.
This showed that the “extra vigilance offered to children on the register or with a plan seems to work”, said Reconstruct chief executive Barry Raynes
He added: “It also shows that the children most vulnerable to death or serious abuse were not those on a child protection plan but those just outside that level of concern. Any raising of child protection thresholds would therefore appear to be worrying.”
However, he pointed out that rising thresholds were also acting as a counter to the massive increase in child protection referrals since the Baby P case.
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