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Child protection spiralling out of control

    Internationally in many English speaking countries there are growing numbers of child protection investigations and more parents are being accused of abuse than ever before. At the same time investigations are less likely to find ‘abuse’.

    Video showing international trends in investigations

    In England there has been a huge increase in the number of child protection investigations with higher and higher proportions of children referred being formally investigated and more investigations not leading to a child protection plan. Research identifies recent service trends that are behind what is a crisis in child protection showing how a system designed to promote welfare has increasingly become one of surveillance and child rescue.

    Trends of child protection investigations in England between 2010 and 2018:

    • Child protection investigations more than doubled (increase 122% from 89,300 to 198,090 )
    • Investigations not followed by child protection plan almost tripled from 45,020 to 129,320 (187% increase)
    • Investigations less likely to lead to a child protection plan (rate fell from 50% in 2010 to 35% in 2018)
    Infographic created by Andy Bilson ( )
    Source: Department for Education statistical returns

    The combination of cuts in children’s services, increasing inequality, the government’s promotion of child rescue and the huge increase in child protection investigations has created a hostile environment for children living in the most deprived communities.

    This increase is not about finding more children who have been physically or sexually abused. The number of these children has changed little since 2010. It relates to neglect and emotional abuse which are more likely to be associated with the increasing inequality and growing poverty in society and the approach of social work.

    Research shows that in just five years the rate of child protection investigations on children before their fifth birthday had increased by 35% to a rate of one in every 16 children. These investigations were increasingly unfounded with a 60% increase in the rate of children facing the collateral damage of an unfounded investigation.