The number of children subject to child protection plans in England rose by 60% between 2006 and 2011, according to research by Queen’s university in Belfast.
Researchers also identified a 46% increase in the number of children in need of protection in Northern Ireland, a 33% increase in Wales and a 19% increase in Scotland.
In England, 42,330 children were subject to child protection plans on March 31 2011, compared with 26,400 on the same date in 2006.
Dr John Devaney, from Queen’s School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, said the figures show more children are receiving a robust child protection response, but added that this could be taking resources away from preventive work.
“It would be interesting to know how agencies are financing the increase in child protection numbers,” he said. “Are local authorities having to move money from preventive services to cope with this higher level of need?”
The figures come just days after it was revealed that the annual number of care applications in England has exceeded 10,000 for the first time.
The child protection system is “under-resourced and crisis-led,” said Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers.
“Last week we had record numbers of care applications. Now this research demonstrates a phenomenal increase in the number of children deemed to be at risk of significant harm.”
“Too many families are being left without support at an early stage, which is just escalating the risk to children. In the NHS, the mantra is prevention is better than cure, why are we not applying this philosophy to the UK’s children?”
The figures have been revealed ahead of a major international child protection conference, organised by the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect and held at Queen’s University between 15–18 April.
Care applications to Cafcass hit all-time high