Education & Family

Domestic violence 'biggest factor' for social services children

Sad girl - posed by model Image copyright NSPCC
Image caption Overall 394,000 children were on the books of social services in England at the end of March 2016

Domestic violence and poor mental health are the biggest issues facing children on the books of social services in England, new figures show.

Almost half of children deemed to be in need of council support by the end of March this year were victims of domestic violence.

And poor mental health was an issue in more than a third of cases, according to Department for Education statistics.

The NSPCC said the figures were "troubling".

The overall number of children deemed to be "in need" by social services across England stood at 394,000 - a slight rise of 0.9% on the 2015 figure of 391,000 and "relatively stable", according to the government.

Of these, 50,310 were the subject of a child protection plan - up 1.2% on 2015's 49,700 and a figure which continues to rise, having been less than 40,000 in 2010.

The children on the books of social services in March faced an array of problems, the figures suggest.

These include:

  • 49.6% faced domestic violence
  • 36.6% had mental health problems
  • 19.3% had drug abuse issues
  • 18.4% alcohol abuse issues
  • 17.5% faced neglect
  • 6.4% sexual abuse
  • 1.2% were involved with gangs
  • 0.6% were unaccompanied asylum seekers
  • 0.3% were victims of child trafficking

The largest age group was 10-to-15-year-olds, accounting for 30.6% of the children, while just under a quarter were below five years old and 52.7% of the total group were boys.

An NSPCC spokeswoman said the fact that mental health was identified as a factor in more than a third of cases "highlights why more than ever we need swift and appropriate help for those who are suffering with mental health issues".

She added: "We also know that nine in 10 children who have been abused go on to suffer mental health problems before they reach the age of 18."

The NSPCC is calling on the government to provide improved mental health support for children who have suffered abuse.

Image caption Just over half the children were boys, the figures suggest

The Local Government Association said councils had faced significant funding cuts while the number of children needing help had risen.

"We cannot allow such an unsustainable pressure to build up on a service that protects our most vulnerable children," said Richard Watts, chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board.

"Our analysis... warns children's services face a £1.9bn funding gap by 2020. It is vital that local authorities have the resources they need to keep children and young people safe."

Mr Watts said the LGA backed urgent improvements and more investment in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, particularly for children in care.

A Department for Education spokesman said keeping children safe from harm was of "paramount importance" and added: "We want to make sure that social workers are supported to make the right decisions for the families they look after.

"That's why in July this year we published plans to improve children's social care, including strengthening protection for the most vulnerable, identifying children at risk as soon as possible and transforming the support available."

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