The Department for Education has published its annual characteristics of children in need census about children referred to and assessed by children's social services for 2017-2018. The numbers are based on data from 152 local authorities in England and Wales.
This data reveals that the number of 'children in need' at 31 March 2018 rose to its highest level at 404,710. Need due to abuse or neglect, family dysfunction, a child’s disability or illness, domestic violence, and mental health were all recorded. The number of Section 47 enquiries, whereby Children's Social Care Services must carry out an investigation when they have ‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm’ has risen by 7.6% and has been increasing since 2013, though in some cases there are multiple enquiries for a single child.
The number of child protection plans has increased by 3.6% overall, despite a small increase in the number of plans ending. The report also includes the number of children awaiting assessment - 26,130 (6.5%) for the first assessment. This number has stayed fairly constant for the last six years, and some of these cases may not turn out to be ‘in need’.
The report provides total numbers and demographics - such as gender, age and reason for assessment - of children referred to local authority social care services, children assessed to be ‘in need’, and children with child protection plans. Cases reported on include referrals, referrals leading to no further action, assessments, initial child protection conferences, child protection plans and child protection plan reviews.