One in every five children in England are referred to social services due to concerns over abuse or neglect, new research has revealed.
The figures, collected and analysed by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) from 75% of local authorities in England, found that 22.5% of children born in 2009–10 were referred to children’s social care before their fifth birthday.
Of these cases, one in nine children were suspected of having suffered abuse or neglect. The figures also show that more than three quarters of all child protection plans were in place due to neglect and emotional abuse.
‘I was shocked to find that at least 11% of this half a million children came under suspicion of abuse or neglect before they were five,’ said lead researcher and associate director of UCLan’s Centre for Children and Young People’s Participation, Professor Andy Bilson.
‘The tragic deaths of children like Ayeeshia Smith, and desperation not to be the one who misses the early signs next time, have led to a climate of suspicion with increasing numbers of children in care and adopted, and child protection investigations spiraling.’
Professor Bilson warned that the policy of Early Help was introduced to ensure children receive support from all agencies to prevent abuse and neglect, but the Government has reduced funding for early intervention by 55% since 2010.
The research shows that inconclusive investigations have more than doubled from 45,000 to 98,000 in the last five years.
Professor Bilson said: ‘Children need to be protected but there is little evidence to suggest that this is achieved by the current scale of statutory involvement which brings ever higher levels of suspicion, shame and fear on a considerable proportion of families in the most deprived areas where this activity is concentrated.’