Most councils have no system to collect child neglect data

Approximately 60% of English councils do not know how many children in their area are likely to suffer from neglect, according to new Action for Children research.

Based on a freedom of information request to 80 local authorities – just under 50% of the total number of councils in England – the majority (48) had no data collection systems in place to determine the number of children experiencing neglect in their area, other than collecting statistics on the number of children already receiving help from social services.

Neglect, however, can include failing to feed or clothe a child properly, bullying a child, or leaving them on their own when they are very young.

The data did reveal that 25 councils had data collection systems in place; six said that while they did not have the data available at this time, new systems had recently been implemented to collect it; and one was unable to provide the information.

The charity stated that collecting information about early warning signs and children experiencing low-level neglect, rather than only those who already have greater needs, can help councils ensure children and families receive the support they need to prevent crisis and future neglect.

Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, said: “The tragedy is that due to a lack of gathering the right information, children whose lives could be improved are needlessly put at further risk.

“This is unacceptable when we know more can be done – we cannot allow the suffering of any child. Neglect can be stopped in its tracks.

The charity is calling for a national strategy to tackle child neglect and for local agencies to work together to understand the extent of the problem to plan and deliver services to provide early help for children. According to the Department for Education (DfE), neglect is the most prevalent form of child abuse and features in 60% of serious case reviews into the death or serious injury of a child.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “We agree that councils need to gather information to spot the early signs of neglect, which can have devastating consequences for the most vulnerable.

“We are overhauling the training and evaluation of social workers to give trainees the expertise they need to tackle neglect. We have also given the NSPCC over £11m to run a comprehensive 24/7 advice and reporting service for those who have concerns about a child, and are developing training materials with the sector to help improve practice in this area.”

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