How safe are our children? 2014 Analysis of how many children are being abused and neglected

Our report compiles and analyses the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across the four nations in the UK for 2014.

The report sets out 20 different indicators. Each indicator looks at the question of 'how safe are our children?' from a different perspective. It also includes a section summarising the factors that influence a child's risk of abuse or neglect and a spotlight on the criminal justice response to child sexual abuse.

A data briefing has also been published outlining the data sources used, those not included and the availability and comparability of data.

Authors: Sonja Jutte, Holly Bentley, Pam Miller and Natasha Jetha
Published: 2014

Demand is outgrowing expenditure
Insufficient early support services, more families struggling financially and higher thresholds have turned child protection into an emergency service, only able to react to the most serious cases.

Taking a broader view
Safeguarding and protecting children extends far beyond children's social care, into a wide range of services that are provided by public, private and third sector organisations.

A greater focus is needed on early intervention
We also need to spend smarter, making sure we invest up front in stopping families slipping into abusive or neglectful behaviour by focussing on risk factors that influence a child's risk of suffering abuse or neglect. This is far more effective in protecting children and costs less in the long run.

  • The most serious forms of physical abuse such as homicide and deaths by assault remain down and have been steadily falling.
  • There is an increased willingness to speak out about abuse and neglect. For example, contacts to the NSPCC helpline increased by 15% in 2012/13 compared with the previous year.
  • Online abuse continues to be a growing issue. The number of counselling sessions ChildLine held about cyber bulling increased by 87% in 2012/13 compared with the previous year. Ofcom reports that one child in five has seen content online that they found worrying, nasty or offensive, and the proportion of children experiencing this has increased every year since 2011.
  • The number of counselling sessions ChildLine holds where self-harm and suicide are the main concern continues to rise.
  • The number of children on child protection registers and protection plans continues to increase in England, Wales and Scotland. As does the number of children who are looked after due to abuse or neglect in England and Wales.
Overview 4
Context: children at risk of abuse and neglect 10
Measuring the extent of abuse and neglect in the UK 15
Indicator 1 Child homicides recorded by police 20
Indicator 2 Child mortality 22
Indicator 3 Child suicides 24
Indicator 4 Number of recorded sexual offences against children 28
The criminal justice response to child sexual abuse 32
Indicator 5 Number of recorded cruelty and neglect offences 36
Indicator 6 Self-reported prevalence of abuse and neglect 38
Indicator 7 Contacts with ChildLine 40
Indicator 8 Contacts with the NSPCC helpline 42
Indicator 9 Online harm 46
Indicator 10 Violent incidents experienced by 10 to 15 year olds 50
Indicator 11 Referrals accepted by social services  52
Indicator 12 Children in need 56
Indicator 13 Children in the child protection system 58
Indicator 14 Composition of child protection plans and child protection registers 60
Indicator 15 Re-registration onto child protection registers 62
Indicator 16 How long children are subject to child protection plans or on the child protection register  64
Indicator 17 Looked-after children 66
Indicator 18 Proportion of looked-after children who have three or more placements during the year 68
Indicator 19 Child trafficking 70
Indicator 20 Public attitudes to child abuse and neglect 72
Glossary 76

The 20 indicators

How safe are our children? series

How safe are our children? is a series of annual reports that compile the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across each of the four nations in the UK.

Each report sets out a range of indicators to answer the question of "how safe are our children?" from a different perspective. 

The series allows us not only to understand how many children are being abused and neglected, but also to track progress so that society can be held to account for its responsibility to children. Only by monitoring the extent of child abuse and neglect in the UK can we judge whether efforts to prevent maltreatment and to protect children are working.

View How safe are our children? series

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Other research and resources

How safe are our children? 2013

Our report compiles and analyses the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across the four nations in the UK for 2013.
Find out more

Child abuse and neglect in the UK today

Research report into children’s experiences of abuse and neglect.
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Costs and consequences of child maltreatment

Overview of recent literature on the prevalence, impact and cost of child abuse and neglect.
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Learning from case reviews

A series of thematic briefings highlighting the learning from case reviews. Each briefing focuses on a different topic, pulling together key risk factors and practice recommendations.
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