Domestic abuse ‘biggest threat to child protection’


Domestic abuse

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Domestic violence, family conflict and drink and drug abuse are the biggest drivers of the rise in child-protection cases in England, says the Local Government Association (LGA).

The organisation representing English councils has surveyed the councillors in charge of children’s services about the causes of a 53% rise in child-protection cases over the past decade.

More than 80% identified domestic violence and substance misuse as being behind the increased numbers in their local authorities.

An average of 88 children are taken into care each day and the LGA asked the lead councillors for children’s services for their view of the most common causes.

‘Children in need’

The behaviour of adults around children – in the form of domestic violence, drinking and drug taking – was the most frequent explanation for councils having to intervene to protect 18,000 more children than a decade ago.

This was followed by factors such as poverty, housing problems and debt.

Figures published last week by the Department for Education showed 52,000 child-protection plans, identifying how to deal with children considered to be at risk, had been drawn up – a slight annual decline against a significant long-term increase.

These figures also showed domestic violence to be the most common factor for so-called “children in need” – much more so than issues such as abuse, gangs, trafficking or anti-social behaviour.

There are almost 400,000 “children in need” where there are concerns about their health or development and where they are at risk of being “significantly impaired” without extra support.

After domestic violence, the most common underlying problems are mental health issues, emotional abuse, drug and alcohol abuse.

Physical abuse, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation were all lower than the previous year.

Funding pressure

But numbers of serious cases investigating fears of children suffering or facing “significant harm” have continued to climb.

There were more than 200,000 of these safeguarding inquiries – rising every year from 127,000 in 2012-13.

The Local Government Association is warning of the financial pressures on councils.

“Funding pressures are coinciding with huge increases in demand for support because of problems like hardship and family conflict,” said Judith Blake, chairwoman of the LGA’s children and young people board.


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