Rise in child protection cases ups pressure on services

Department for Education figures reveal year-on-year rise in child protection demand continues

child
Photo: Nadezhda1906/Fotolia

The volume of child protection enquiries and initial child protection conferences rose last year, government figures show.

The number of children subject to section 47 enquiries starting in the year, increased 7.6% from 160,200 in 2014-15 to 172,290 in 2015-16.

The number of children who were subject of an initial stage child protection conference which took place in the year also rose 2.3%, from 71,400 in 2014-15 to 73,050 in 2015-16.

The figures, set out in the Department for Education’s annual characteristics of children in need publication, are the highest since the dataset was introduced in 2008-09.

Despite the rising volume of cases, the proportion of child protection plans reviewed within required timescales only slipped slightly from 94% in 2014-15 to 93.7% in 2015-16.

The report also showed:

  • 394,400 children met children in need thresholds as at 31 March 2016, up 1% on the previous year.
  • Referrals to children’s social care dropped 2.2%, from 635,600 in 2014-15 to 621,470 in 2015-16. This was the second successive year referrals have fallen after a “larger than usual” increase in 2013-14, the report said.
  • The percentage of referrals that resulted in an immediate decision of no further action dropped from 13.8% in 2014-15 to 9.9% in 2015-16.
  • However, the percentage of referrals that were assessed and then required no further action increased from 23% in 2014-15 to 25.4% in 2015-16.
  • The percentage of all social care referrals that were within a year of the child’s last referral decreased from 24% in 2014-15 to 22.3% in 2015-16.
  • Most referrals were from the police, which accounted for 27,6% of all referrals, followed by schools with 16.7%, and health services with 14.3%.

Abuse or neglect was the most common primary need at the start of assessment and appeared in 50% of cases, followed by family dysfunction (17.4%) and a child’s disability and illness (9.4%).

Domestic violence (49.6%) was the most common factor identified at the end of assessment for children in need, followed by mental health (36.6%).

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