There were 547,000 child protection referrals to social services departments in the year ending this March. This was up by 8,500 on the previous year, but below the high of 569,300 recorded in 2005-06. As in previous years, nearly a quarter of these were repeat referrals. Overall, 72 per cent of initial assessments of children referred were completed within seven days, well above the 65 per cent of five years ago, but this still meant that more than one in four such assessments took longer than the national target. One in five of the core assessments also took longer than the 35-day standard.
From these assessments, almost 38,000 children became the subject of a Child Protection Plan (CPP), almost equally divided between boys and girls. Compared with a decade ago, when 26 children per 100,000 of under-18s became subject to a CPP, the figure for last year had climbed to 34 per hundred thousand.
Neglect, as ever, remains the main reason for the creation of a CPP, accounting for 45 per cent of the new plans created last year. Emotional abuse accounted for a quarter of the new plans with a further 15 per cent due to physical abuse. Fortunately, only 6 per cent of CPPs were as a result of sexual abuse, but this still meant that there were more than 2,000 children who were harmed in this way last year. The actual number may be higher as some of the children in the multiple abuse category may have been subject to sexual as well as other types of abuse. Following on from the Baby P tragedy, the number of referrals this year may well be even higher than last year. These figures make for a stark assessment of an England that is supposedly an educated and civilised society.
John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.