In 2012/13 there were 127,000 investigations launched across the country into children thought to be at risk of child abuse or neglect. This is a 42% increase in investigations since 2009/10, according to figures revealed by Sky News.
Experts speculate that one of the reasons for this increase is heightened awareness of child abuse since the Baby P case in 2008. Another reason was the impact of the recession on households which can in turn lead to more family pressures and an increase in domestic violence.
Blackpool was reported as having a particularly high number of investigations with around one in twenty children being the subject of scrutiny, four times the national average.
Responding to the figures, Matthew Downie, head of campaigns at Action for Children, said: ‘It's no surprise we've seen an increase in high-level investigations over the past five years. In this time we've seen greater focus on publicity and resources at the most serious end of the child protection system, as well as an extra 10,000 people entering care. Families are also under greater pressures, and are reporting more risk factors associated with neglect and abuse, such as domestic violence and mental health problems. What's worrying is that as these problems have worsened, the budgets for services designed to help prevent abuse have been cut.
‘Time and again social workers and other agencies tell us they are frustrated at not being able to cope with their caseloads, and of being unable to help children before they experience severe abuse. Yes we must act swiftly to protect children, but it is also right to ask whether the child protection system is properly resourced, and enough is being done to prevent abuse in the first place.'