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Almost 16,000 babies are at risk of severe harm, report warns

Date:24 OCT 2018

A report by the Children’s Commissioner for England suggests that 15,800 babies under the age of one are considered by local authorities to be vulnerable and at risk of severe harm due to parental abuse or neglect, but are still living at home. This amounts to around 100 babies per local authority. With many local authorities struggling with financial pressures and increasing strain on children’s social services, the report, ‘A Crying Shame’, assesses how many babies might be vulnerable to severe harm.

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Data from March 2017—the most recent comprehensive local authority data available—shows that 19,640 babies under a year old were identified by local authorities as being ‘in need’, largely due to risk factors in the family home.

Of these, 15,800 babies under one were considered to be vulnerable or highly vulnerable, but were still living at home in March 2017. This figure, the report says, is unlikely to have changed since that date.

Other findings

The research also shows:

• 50,000 children aged under five, including 8,300 babies under one, are living in households where all three of the so-called ‘toxic trio’ are present—domestic violence, alcohol or drug dependency and severe mental ill-health

• a further 160,000 children aged under five, including 25,000 babies under one, live in a household where two of these three toxic risk factors are present—but only 58,000 under-fours have been identified by local authorities as being even in the lower level risk category, ie ‘in need’

‘Tip of the iceberg’

Author of the report, Children’s Commissioner’s Director of Strategy Alice Miles, said: ‘With local authorities under such pressure financially, and troubled families funding coming to an end in 2020, it’s vital that ministers make the protection of vulnerable children a priority in policy and funding. The country is rightly shocked and outraged when serious case reviews reveal the circumstances in which young children live and sometimes die—however, sadly these are the tip of the iceberg.’

‘Government must ensure they are properly  protected’

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said: ‘The government has an opportunity in the Budget and next year’s spending review to make sure the funds are in place ensure that they are properly protected.’

Source: Report: A Crying Shame