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Lockdown sees 20 per cent rise in serious incident notifications involving under 1s

Ofsted's Chief Inspector warns of increased violence to babies

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted's Chief Inspector, has warned of the continuing rise in incidents of harm to children under one year old.

In a speech on Friday, 6 November 2020 at the online National Children and Adult Services (NCAS) Conference, she said that the effects of lockdown were being felt particularly keenly by very vulnerable children.

Every week, she said, Ofsted was seeing notifications from local authorities about babies who have died or been seriously harmed through abuse or neglect.

"The figures are stark. Between April and October, we saw over 300 serious incident notifications. A significant proportion of these – almost 40 per cent – were about babies, over a fifth more than in the same period as last year. And tragically, over half of these cases – that's 64 children – suffered non-accidental injuries. And sadly, eight died as a result.

"Violence towards babies was already a worry before COVID. Over a quarter of all incidents reported to the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel last year involved non-accidental injuries to babies. Children being abused, often by young parents, or other family or household members, who had very little social support.

"As well as babies being intentionally harmed, we're seeing a high number of unexpected infant deaths. Some, apparently preventable tragedies: babies not being put down to sleep safely, sharing a bed or sofa with a parent who has been drinking, for example."

Since early October, Ofsted has published a series of briefing notes about providers whom Ofsted has visited or spoken to during the interim phase of its return to routine inspection. The reports seek to provide an overview of how schools, colleges, early years and of course local authorities and social care providers are responding.

Ms Spielman noted that schools are among the top referrers to children's social care but, over the summer, with schools closed and health visitors working in the acute sector, referrals to children's social care had dwindled in some places.

Ms Spielman also said that since March, Ofsted had suspended the registrations of nearly 20 children's homes and restricted accommodation at over 20 more. Whilst there were more children's homes registered than ever, pressure on places was only set to continue.

For the Chief Inspector's speech, click here.