There are nearly 16,000 babies growing up in households where they are at risk from harm, the commission that monitors the care of children has warned.
A report published today by the Children’s Commissioner for England shows there are 15,800 babies under the age of one considered by councils to be ‘vulnerable’ or ‘highly vulnerable’.
The commissioner, Anne Longfield, links the high number of vulnerable babies to the fact that local authorities are ‘struggling with unprecedented financial pressures’ that are putting increasing strain on children’s social services.
‘This important research shows hundreds of the most vulnerable young children are at risk of harm,’ she said.
‘As children’s services budgets come under increased pressure, we cannot just cross our fingers and hope for the best. Babies are too vulnerable and deserve better.’
Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Children and Young People Board, said these new figures showed the ‘colossal challenge facing councils and their partners as they try to address growing levels of need with rapidly diminishing resources.’
‘While it is absolutely vital that councils are able to support families and help children who are at risk of significant harm, they also need to be able to intervene before problems escalate to that point,’ she said.
‘But this is being put at risk by the significant financial pressure that children’s services across the country are now under, with many councils being pushed to the brink by unprecedented demand.’
Cllr Bramble said there was currently ‘a record number’ of children entering care at a rate of 90 a day. Around 182 child protection plans are started by councils everyday, she added, and a child is referred to children’s services every 49 seconds.
‘Despite councils’ best efforts to protect spending on children’s services, they have too often been forced to reduce or stop the very services which are designed to help children and families before problems begin or escalate to the point where a child might need to come into care,’ she concluded.
Alice Miles, the Children’s Commissioner’s director of strategy and author of the report, said: ‘With local authorities under such pressure financially, and troubled families funding coming to an end in 2020, it’s vital that ministers make the protection of vulnerable children a priority in policy and funding.
‘The country is rightly shocked and outraged when serious case reviews reveal the circumstances in which young children live and sometimes die; however, sadly these are the tip of the iceberg.’
‘The Government has an opportunity in the Budget and next year’s spending review to make sure the funds are in place to ensure that they are properly protected,’ added Ms. Longfield, referring to babies who are at risk of harm.