childpovertyAround 520,000 children are abused or neglected at home each year, but only one in nine are protected by local authorities, the NSPCC has revealed ahead of today's 'How Safe are our Children?' conference.

Services to protect children are improving but the charity warns they will only ever reach a fraction of the children who are abused. It is calling for a new approach focusing more on prevention as well as protection to close the gap.

Child services working in overdrive
Lisa Harker, NSPCC head of strategy, and one author of the report, said: “As a nation we spend more than £6 billion every year on services for children and families. We need to know if our efforts to prevent abuse and protect children are working.

“Child protection services are working in overdrive and our report shows the UK is making progress in some areas. But the hidden extent of child abuse and neglect revealed in this report is a national scandal. Since Baby Peter, social workers and other professionals are working harder and harder to reduce the harm caused by abuse and neglect. They are taking more referrals, making more assessments, providing more services and putting more children in care.

“When we discover abuse we must do everything we can to protect children from further harm and help them recover. But it’s vital to prevent abuse from happening to so many children in the first place. We need to shift policy across the UK towards early intervention – and set a new course that can stop cruelty blighting so many children’s lives.”

Clear picture of UK child harm levels
The report brings together a robust set of child protection data, giving a clear picture of how many children are being harmed in the UK. It reveals that for every child subject to a protection plan, or on child protection registers, another eight have suffered recent maltreatment.

The scale of the problem is a key finding in the UK’s first ever national child abuse tracker ‘How Safe are our Children’ also launched by the charity today [18 Apr]. Its new report presents 19 indicators of child protection in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and the tracker will monitor progress against the indicators on a regular basis.

Tenth of maltreated children in CPS plans
The NSPCC estimates that 520,000 children were maltreated by a parent or guardian in the UK in 2011. But only 58,000 became the subject of child protection plans in that year. The charity estimates it would cost up to half a billion pounds every year to provide protection plans to just a quarter of these ‘hidden’ children.

But preventative services which work with struggling parents before or as soon as issues arise can stop the need for costly protection measures later and make huge savings in both financial and human terms. As a result, the NSPCC is trialling a range of new preventative provision across the UK.

Solid progress against child abuse
Despite the disturbing findings of this report, it also gives the first solid evidence of progress against child abuse. Child homicides have decreased in England and Wales by 30 per cent since 1981, although 56 children were killed last year – still more than one a week.

The NSPCC’s 19 indicators cover a wide array on data relating to child protection. They include child killings, sexual crimes, trafficking, calls to ChildLine and the NSPCC as well as referrals to social services and assessments. The indicators are published on the charity’s website at www.nspcc.org.uk/Howsafe.

JFHC are reporting live from 'How Safe' today and tomorrow, including talks from Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson and Children’s Commissioner for England Dr Maggie Atkinson
For regular updates follow @journalfhc on Twitter with #howsafe2013

Posted 18/04/2013 by richard.hook@pavpub.com