Recent statistics released by the Department for Education have revealed a rise in 2015 of the number of UK children who became the subject of a child protection plan.
A child protection plan is applied only after investigation by the local authority. Should the authority deem the child or children in question to be significantly at risk, then a plan will be drawn up which will examine how the child can best be kept safe – a decision which is then communicated to the parents, who are also offered support.
In 2015, 62,200 children became the subject of a child protection plan, compared to 59,800 in the previous year. 16.6% of these were the subject of a plan for at least a second time, compared to 13.3% the year before. A large proportion of these were the result of a section 47 enquiry, which states that local authorities must investigate families where children are potentially deemed to be at risk. The number of section 47 enquiries has also risen, with almost half of cases citing neglect, and a third citing emotional abuse.
Guidelines state that child protection plans should be reviewed initially within the first three months and thereafter, at least every six months. However, the increase in plans has obviously had a negative effect on local authority team resources, as 94% were reviewed within the necessary timescales this year, compared to 94.6% in 2014.
Even if we take the view that local authorities are becoming more efficient in carrying out section 47 enquiries, which would therefore indicate an increase in the numbers of children becoming the subject of a child protection order, these findings certainly make for disturbing reading. This is particularly so when compared to the numbers of children in need, which in contrast, have dropped from 397,600 last year, to 391,000 this year.