The economic cost of child maltreatment in the UK Preliminary study estimating the lifetime costs of child abuse and neglect

Girl sat on the floorThis is the first UK-based study to estimate the lifetime economic costs of child maltreatment. The estimates are based on economic analysis of existing UK longitudinal datasets. This study represents a baseline on which future, more comprehensive, studies could be built when better data are available. By publishing this research we hope to contribute to both the economic evaluation of existing child maltreatment interventions and prevention services and the business case for new services and interventions.

This study gives a conservative estimate for the financial costs of child maltreatment in terms of:

  • health care
  • social care
  • education
  • the criminal justice system
  • the impact of lost productivity on the economy.

It does not, and cannot, capture the significant intangible costs of abuse to the individuals involved, such as the emotional suffering borne by victims. 

Research was conducted by University College London (UCL) on behalf of the NSPCC.

Authors: Gabriella Conti, Stephen Morris, Mariya Melnychuk, Elena Pizzo.
Published: 2017

  • The estimated average lifetime cost of non-fatal child maltreatment by a primary care-giver is £89,390 (with a 95% certainty that the costs fall between £44,896 and £145, 508).
  • The largest contributors to this cost are social care costs, short-term health-related costs, and the costs resulting from a lower probability of employment.
  • This study presents a very conservative estimate of the economic costs of child maltreatment, limited by the range of child maltreatment and outcome measures available.
An introduction from NSPCC 5
Overview 6
1. Literature review on the economic impact of child maltreatment 7
2. Datasets and definition of child maltreatment 10
3. The effects of child maltreatment 15
4. The long-term economic consequences of child maltreatment in the UK 28
5. Discussion 46
References 49
Appendix 51

Please cite as: Conti, G. et al (2017) The economic cost of child maltreatment in the UK: a preliminary study. London: NSPCC.

Got a question?

Our Knowledge and Information Service answer over a thousand enquiries every year helping professionals find the information and resources they need to keep children safe.

Send us your enquiry

Related resources

Estimating the costs of child sexual abuse in the UK

Report using research literature to estimate the overall costs of child sexual abuse in the UK at £3.2bn in 2012.
Find out more

Supporting children and families returning home from care: counting the costs

Compares the costs of providing support services to children and families returning home with the costs of failed reunifications.
Find out more

Costs and consequences of child maltreatment

Overview of recent literature on the prevalence, impact and cost of child abuse and neglect.
Find out more

Our service centres

Find out how our Scale-up unit supports organisations to deliver our evidence-based services.
NSPCC service centres

Child abuse and neglect

Find out what child abuse is, how to spot the signs, who is affected and what you should do if you're worried about a child
More on abuse and neglect

Child protection in the UK

How the systems and laws of the UK and its 4 nations work to keep children safe from abuse and harm.
More about the child protection system

Impact and evidence

Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.
Impact and evidence


Our Current Awareness Service for Practice, Policy And Research delivers free weekly email alerts to keep you up-to-date with all the latest safeguarding and child protection news.

Sign up to CASPAR

Information Service

Our free service for people who work with children can help you find the latest policy, practice, research and news on child protection and related subjects.

For more information, call us or email

0808 800 5000

Submit an enquiry

How safe are our children? Growing up online

Our annual flagship conference is for everyone working in child protection.

Find out more

Follow @NSPCCpro

Follow us on Twitter and keep up-to-date with all the latest news in child protection.

Follow @NSPCCpro on Twitter

Library catalogue

We hold the UK's largest collection of child protection resources and the only UK database specialising in published material on child protection, child abuse and child neglect.

Search the library

New in the Library

A free weekly email listing all of the new child protection publications added to our library collection.

Sign up to New in the Library

Helping you keep children safe

Read our guide for professionals on what we do and the ways we can work with you to protect children and prevent abuse and neglect.

Read our guide (PDF)

Impact and evidence

Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.

Our impact and evidence

Training and consultancy

Grow your child protection knowledge and skills with CPD certified courses delivered by our experts nationwide and online.
Get expert training

Sharing knowledge to keep children safe

Read our guide to the NSPCC Knowledge and Information Service to find out how we can help you with child protection queries, support your research, and help you learn and develop.

Read our guide (PDF)