The Children’s Commissioner’s Office for England published a report today (17 October 2018) which examines the number of children living at home who are considered by local authorities to be highly vulnerable.
The report, titled ‘A Crying Shame’, uses local authority data from March 2017 to estimate how many children under the age of five are at risk of severe harm and has a focus on babies under the age of one. The data reports the number of babies and children identified as being ‘in need’ who were not looked after by the authorities, placed under special arrangements, or adopted after concerns were raised.
As at 31 March 2017, there were 19,640 babies under a year old identified by local authorities as being ‘in need’, largely due to risk factors in the family home.
The author outlines a ‘toxic trio’ of violence, alcohol or drug dependency and severe mental ill-health to rank the level of risk to children are exposed to in a household.
For those living in ‘high risk’ households, 10,840 babies and 47,160 one to five year olds have been identified. It’s estimated that a further 100,000 children, including 4,000 babies, are living in ‘high risk’ households without being known to social services, and over 30,000 under 5s (including 3,300 babies) who may be living in ‘very high risk’ environments.
The report expresses concern about the end of the Troubled Families Programme in 2020 and the cuts to family support services in favour of crisis intervention and has a number of recommendations for local authorities, including a need to focus on health visitors and adult services working with those affected by the domestic violence, mental ill health, and substance abuse, to be able to identify where there are children in a household who may be at risk.
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner, is urging the UK Government to take note of these figures for the upcoming UK Budget and to ensure that there are sufficient funds to protect children, in particular those under the age of one: “…we cannot just cross our fingers and hope for the best. Babies are too vulnerable and deserve better.”