What happened to child protection during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Earlier this year we reported on predictions about the potential impact of COVID-19 pandemic on child protection and initial reports into the ‘lockdown effect’ on child protection. 

There is now further confirmation of the ‘lockdown effect’ on children in England and Wales. Compared to the same period in 2019, there is in 2020 a marked rise (+27%) in the most serious incidents of suspected child abuse. 

Local authorities must report all incidents of death or serious harm involving children in their area.  These are called serious incident notifications.  The notifications are recorded by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel and published. The Panel received 285 serious incident notifications from April to September 2020: this is a 27% increase compared to the previous year.  According to the data: 

  • Child deaths increased from 89 to 119 (an increase of more than 33%)
  • Cases of serious harm increased from 132 to 153 (an increase of almost 16%)
  • Cases of serious harm involving children under one increased by 30%
 April 2018 – September 2018April 2019 – September 2019April 2020 – September 2020Evolution 2018 – 2019Evolution 2019 – 2020Evolution 2018 – 2020
Child deaths  11789119-24%+33%+2%
Serious harm incidents135132153-2%+16%+13%
Other (inc. child perpetrators)22413-81%+325%-41%
  TOTAL  274225285-18%+27%+4%

Notifications had decreased between 2018 and 2019, but overall, there is an increase of reported serious harm incidents (+4%) between 2018 and 2020.  What remains to be seen is whether more incidents occurred, but have remained hidden from view so far. 

Written by Geneviève Rich, Associate at BLM genevieve.rich@blmlaw.com

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