On the map - Social care services - Distribution of children in need still a mystery

19th November 2010 at 00:00

Forty years ago in January, I started my teaching career in Haringey.

The borough stretches from the hills of Highgate to the banks of the River Lea and is a mix of extreme affluence and poverty in one place.

Our map shows it is also the local authority with the greatest concentration of children in need, as measured by the number of children per 10,000 referred to and assessed by children's social care services in the period between April 2009 and March 2010.

Of course, some of this may be due to a post-Baby Peter reaction in the borough. But he was not the first child in Haringey to hit the headlines. Remember Victoria Climbie, whose death was the motivation for the Every Child Matters agenda?

Haringey has over four times as many referrals as Richmond-upon-Thames, the London borough with the lowest number.

Elsewhere across England, the picture is much more mixed, with some relatively small urban authorities such as Stoke and Middlesbrough close to the top of the list alongside county authorities such as East Sussex and Derbyshire.

Why should these authorities have so many more referrals than, say, Surrey, Wiltshire, Norfolk and North Yorkshire? And why does Middlesbrough have almost double the referrals of North Tyneside, just up the coast?

I don't know the answers to these questions. But teachers, and those who work with young children, are in the front line in spotting patterns of possible abuse, whether through neglect or positive harm.

If our traditional pattern of schools fractures into a new model based on independent academies, free schools and for-profits, there should still be a mechanism for reporting concerns to children's services.

The first free school in Haringey can lead the way by setting an example for others to follow. If it does not, it might not be a director of children's services who is forced to resign at some point in the future, but a secretary of state.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education

Local authorities with highest number of children who have been in care of social services, 2009-10*

South West

Bournemouth 499

West Midlands

Stoke 731

South East

East Sussex 753


Haringey 895

East of England

Luton 605

East Midlands

Derbyshire 676

Yorkshire amp; Humber

Hull 518

North East

Middlesbrough 702

North West

Bury 464

* Per 10,000, from April 2009 to March 2010.

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