Fewer children’s social care referrals passing ‘child in need’ threshold, figures show

However, Department for Education figures also show rise in child protection investigations and child protection plans

Photo: Cultura/Rex

The proportion of children assessed as meeting ‘child in need’ thresholds by social services fell last year, government figures show.

The Department for Education statistics show 23% of social services assessments in 2014-15 led to a decision that a child was ‘not in need’, up from 19.4% in the previous year.

The shift could partly reflect an increase in the number of children being assessed, as the proportion of referrals where no assessment was offered dropped slightly from 14.1% to 13.8% over the same period.

The annual children in need statistics also revealed that the number of child protection conferences and number of children placed on child protection plans both rose last year, despite a drop in the volume of referrals to children’s social services.

Child protection enquiries (section 47) rose by 12% to 160,150. The number of children who became the subject of a child protection plan hit 62,200 in 2014-15, up from 59,800 the previous year.

A greater proportion of children on child protection plans in 2014-15 had been subject to multiple plans, compared to the previous year.

The figures showed that overall referrals to children’s social care dropped from 657,800 in 2013-14 to 635,600 in 2014-15, a fall of 3%. However, the figure for 2015 was still higher than referrals received in the four years prior to 2013-14.

Neglect

For the first time, the DfE collected data on referral sources. This showed that police were the most common agency to refer to children’s social care, accounting for 26.4% of referrals, followed by schools (15.4%) and health services (14.9%).

Abuse or neglect was a child’s primary need in 49% of assessments, while domestic violence was the most common factor identified at the end of children in need assessments.

In total, 49,700 children were subject to a child protection plan at 31 March 2015.

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