Global trends in child protection An overview of child protection data from around the world, comparing trends with England and the UK

Girl leaning against a wallTo protect more children from abuse we need to make sure our national child protection system is working effectively. We’ve been working with the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) and the Local Government Association (LGA) to get an overall picture of the child protection system in England and find out what works best to improve children’s lives.

As part of this, we commissioned the University of Edinburgh to produce a report to help compare data about child protection in England and the UK to other countries.

We’ve used 16 indicators and made comparisons on a global level as far as we can.

Authors: Dr. Deborah Fry and Tabitha Casey
Published: 2017

It’s difficult to compare data about child protection across countries: each country has its own child protection system and they each define and record child abuse and neglect in a slightly different way. But making comparisons, particularly with other high-income countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia and other European countries, can help us think about:

  • potential barriers to protecting children from abuse
  • how to improve the way we measure and collect child protection data
  • how we respond to and prevent child maltreatment at a national level.

The key findings of this report include:

  • the number of child deaths in the UK, where another person was responsible or where responsibility was not determined, are among the lowest in Europe
  • there are wide variations in the rate of sexual offences against children that are being reported to police globally. The rate of reporting of sexual offences in the UK has increased over the last decade but underreporting is still an issue
  • when people are asked about their experiences of childhood abuse in household surveys, the percentage of people in the USA who said they experienced maltreatment by their parents or caregivers during their lifetime is significantly higher than in similar surveys in the UK. However the self-reported prevalence of children experiencing physical violence during their lifetime is similar in the USA and UK
  • children in the UK are less likely to report being upset by something they have seen online. They are less likely than children in Australia and the EU (taken as an average across countries) to report meeting someone in person that they met initially online
  • crime victimisation among adolescents is low in England and in many European countries
  • England has a higher rate of children referred to social welfare services than Australia.
Acknowledgements 4
Overview 5
Findings 6
Methods 7
Measuring child maltreatment 8
  1. Child homicide 11
  2. Child mortality 14
  3. Child suicides 17
  4. Recorded sexual offences 18
  5. Self-reported prevalence 20
  6. Contacts with Childline 22
  7. Online harm 24
  8. Violent incidents 27
  9. Referrals and assessments 30
  10. Children in the child protection system 33
  11. Composition of child protection plans 35
  12. Re-registration onto a child protection plan 39
  13. How long are children on child protection plans? 41
  14. Looked after children 43
  15. Number of placements for looked after children 45
  16. Child trafficking 47
Conclusion 49
Appendix A: Measuring self-reported prevalence 50
Appendix B: Glossary 52
References 54

Bringing the global to the local

Download the report (PDF)

Please cite as: Fry, D. and Casey, T. Bringing the global to the local: review of global trends in the prevalence and services for child maltreatment in order to inform research, policy and practice in England. London: NSPCC.

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