IQ Legal TrainingBerkeley Lifford Hall Accountancy Services

Many thousands of babies are living in households carrying very high risks: Children’s Commissioner

15,800 babies considered to be vulnerable or highly vulnerable are still living at home

A report published by the Children's Commissioner for England, suggests there are 15,800 babies under the age of one year considered by local authorities to be vulnerable or highly vulnerable and at risk of harm, but still living at home. The report comes as many local authorities are struggling with unprecedented financial pressures that are putting increasing strain on children's social services.

The report, A Crying Shame, looks at how many babies might be vulnerable to severe harm. It shows that according to the last comprehensive local authority data available in March 2017, there were 19,640 babies under a year old identified by local authorities as being 'in need', largely due to risk factors in the family home. 3,820 of these babies under one were being looked after by local authorities, with a further 640 babies under one placed under special arrangements with someone other than their parents and a further 300 adopted over the year. This leaves 15,800 babies under one considered by local authorities to be vulnerable or highly vulnerable but still living at home in March 2017, a figure that is unlikely to be changed today. This amounts to around 100 babies per local authority. Babies appear disproportionately in Serious Case Reviews.

The Children's Commissioner's research also shows:

Alice Miles, the Children's Commissioner's Director of Strategy and author of the report, said:

"This analysis suggests there are many thousands of babies living in households carrying very high risks, many of whom may not even be known to social services. We know infants are especially vulnerable to being harmed by parental abuse or neglect. 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."

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, said:

"This important research shows hundreds of the most vulnerable young children are at risk of harm. As children's services budgets come under increased pressure, we cannot just cross our fingers and hope for the best. Babies are too vulnerable and deserve better.  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."

Responding to the report, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said:

"These worrying figures underline the huge number of children and families in need of help and support, and emphasises the colossal challenge facing councils and their partners as they try to address growing levels of need with rapidly diminishing resources.

"While it is absolutely vital that councils are able to support families and help children who are at risk of significant harm, they also need to be able to intervene before problems escalate to that point. But this is being put at risk by the significant financial pressure that children's services across the country are now under, with many councils being pushed to the brink by unprecedented demand. This has seen a record number of children entering care at a rate of 90 a day; councils starting 182 child protection plans every day, and a child referred to children's services every 49 seconds.

"Despite councils' best efforts to protect spending on children's services, they have too often been forced to reduce or stop the very services which are designed to help children and families before problems begin or escalate to the point where a child might need to come into care.

"We are absolutely clear that unless new funding is found in the Autumn Budget, then these vital services, which keep children safe from harm and the worst abuses of society, will reach a tipping point."

For the report, click here.