Serious child harm cases rise by more than a quarter

The Local Government Association has warned that serious child harm cases reported by councils rise by more than a quarter during pandemic.

Government figures show that the total number of serious incident notifications in England during the first half (April to September) of the reporting year 2020/21 increased by 27 per cent, from 224 to 285, on the same period last year. This follows a decrease of 18 per cent between 2018/19 and 2019/20.

The largest increases were seen in young children – incidents involving those aged under one increased by 31 per cent, from 78 to 102, while incidents involving those aged one to five soared by 50 per cent, from 32 to 48. Incidents involving those aged over 16, have also risen - by almost a third, from 45 to 59.

The LGA is extremely concerned about children’s safety amid extra pressures on families during the pandemic, with acts of abuse more likely to go unseen ‘behind closed doors’ during lockdown. As the impact of the pandemic becomes clear, councils expect to see a significant rise in referrals to children’s social care and demand for wider children’s support services.

Council leaders say that they need to be able to provide preventative and early-help services to help avoid situations escalating into acts of abuse and harm on children and young people. It has called for the £1.7 billion removed from the Early Intervention Grant since 2010 to be reinstated.

Judith Blake, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Any case of a baby or child being harmed is extremely distressing and an enormous cause for concern for councils, so this rise in serious incident notifications is particularly harrowing.

“The pandemic has led to an increasing number of families facing exceptionally difficult circumstances, which can fuel harmful acts of abuse or neglect on children. Councils have been working hard with their partners to respond to changing and emerging threats to children and young people, including criminal exploitation, through online and virtual contact and resources, as well as high priority home visits. They will continue to do all they can to keep all children safe, and to support families with challenges exacerbated by the pandemic, from mental health issues and poverty, to alcohol and substance misuse.”

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