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More than 15,000 babies at risk

Children's commissioner warns that 15,800 babies are vulnerable and at risk

Published on 19th October 2018

There are more than 15,000 babies under the age of one considered by local authorities to be vulnerable and at risk of harm but who are still living at home, a report has warned.

The report, ‘A Crying Shame’ by the children's commissioner, looks at how many babies might be vulnerable to severe harm and found 15,800 babies under one considered by local authorities to be vulnerable or highly vulnerable but still living at home in March 2017, a figure that is unlikely to be changed today.

Alice Miles, the Children’s Commissioner’s Director of Strategy and author of the report, said: “This analysis suggests there are many thousands of babies living in households carrying very high risks, many of whom may not even be known to social services. We know infants are especially vulnerable to being harmed by parental abuse or neglect."

The last comprehensive local authority data available published in March 2017 found that there were 19,640 babies under a year old identified by local authorities as being ‘in need’, largely due to risk factors in the family home.

Local authorities were looking after 3,820 of these babies under one, with a further 640 babies under one placed under special arrangements with someone other than their parents and a further 300 adopted over the year. This leaves 15,800 babies under one considered by local authorities to be vulnerable or highly vulnerable but still living at home in March 2017.

This amounts to around 100 babies per local authority. Babies appear disproportionately in Serious Case Reviews, the research said.

The Children’s Commissioner’s research also shows:

- 50,000 children aged 0-5, including 8,300 babies under one are living in households where all three of the so-called ‘toxic trio’ are present: domestic violence, alcohol or drug dependency and severe mental ill-health.

- A further 160,000 children aged 0-5 – including 25,000 babies under one – live in a household where two of the three most ‘toxic’ risk factors are present.

- However, only 58,000 0-4 year olds have been identified by local authorities as being even in the lower level risk category, ‘in need’, if those who are looked after or on a child protection plan are excluded.

This suggests that there are around 100,000 young children (0-5) living in high risk households – defined as having two out of three ‘toxic trio’ issues – who are not recognised as ‘children in need’. That includes 14,000 babies under the age of one.

Alice Miles added: "With local authorities under such pressure financially, and troubled families funding coming to an end in 2020, it’s vital that ministers make the protection of vulnerable children a priority in policy and funding. The country is rightly shocked and outraged when serious case reviews reveal the circumstances in which young children live and sometimes die; however, sadly these are the tip of the iceberg.”

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, added: "This important research shows hundreds of the most vulnerable young children are at risk of harm. As children’s services budgets come under increased pressure, we cannot just cross our fingers and hope for the best. Babies are too vulnerable and deserve better.  The government has an opportunity in the Budget and next year’s spending review to make sure the funds are in place ensure that they are properly protected.”

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