How safe are our children? 2017 The most comprehensive overview of child protection in the UK

Boy smiling and sat in front of purple sofaOur report compiles and analyses the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across the 4 nations in the UK for 2017.

The report sets out 20 different indicators. Each indicator looks at the question of 'how safe are our children?' from a different perspective. They also include historic data, to help track progress over time.

Authors: Holly Bentley, Orla O'Hagan, Alison Brown, Nikki Vasco, Charlotte Lynch, Jessica Peppiate, Mieka Webber, Ruth Ball, Pam Miller, Anne Byrne, Maria Hafizi and Fiona Letendrie.
Published: 2017

This year's report explains what the available data tells us about the current child protection landscape. It also highlights our call for a new UK-wide prevalence survey to give the clearest possible picture of the extent of child abuse and neglect.

  • In recent years there has been an increase in emotional abuse as a reason for children being on a child protection plan or register in England and Wales, and increasing numbers of contacts to the NSPCC helpline about the issue.
  • There has been an increase in public reporting of child abuse. In 2016/17 the NSPCC helpline responded to its highest ever number of contacts.
  • There have also been increases in police-recorded child sexual offences and indecent image offences across the UK and increases in child cruelty and neglect offences in all UK nations except Scotland.
  • The last decade has also seen increased numbers of children on child protection plans and registers and increased numbers of looked after children in the UK.
  • But, without a new survey of child maltreatment prevalence we lack a clear picture of the extent of child abuse and neglect today. That’s why we are calling on the UK Government to commission a new UK-wide study.
Overview 6
Measuring the extent of abuse and neglect in the UK 12
Indicator 1: Child homicides recorded by police includes the offences of murder, manslaughter and infanticide 18
Indicator 2: Child mortality deaths by assault, neglect and undetermined intent 20
Indicator 3: Child suicides 24
Indicator 4: Number of recorded sexual offences against children 28
Indicator 5: Number of recorded cruelty and neglect offences 32
Indicator 6: Self-reported prevalence of abuse and neglect 34
Indicator 7: Counselling sessions with Childline 36
Indicator 8: Contacts with the NSPCC helpline 38
Indicator 9: Online harm 40
Indicator 10: Violent incidents experienced by 10 to 15 year olds Crime survey for England and Wales 44
Crime survey for England and Wales: Experiences of abuse in childhood 46
Indicator 11: Referrals to social services 48
Indicator 12: Children in need 50
Indicator 13: Children in the child protection system 52
Indicator 14: Composition of child protection plans and child protection registers 56
Indicator 15: Re-registration onto child protection registers or returning to a child protection plan 60
Indicator 16: How long are children subject to child protection plans or on child protection registers 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 74
Glossary 76

"Understanding what these numbers tell us is vital in helping us have a conversation about what's working – and more importantly – what needs to be done to better protect our children."

Please cite as: Bentley, H. et al (2017) How safe are our children? The most comprehensive overview of child protection in the UK 2017. London: NSPCC.

Statistics on child abuse

View statistics and information on the incidence and prevalence of child abuse and how child abuse levels compare across the UK and with other countries.

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Impact and evidence hub

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Fighting for childhood

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Our call for a new prevalence report

We're calling on the UK Government to commission a new UK-wide prevalence study to update the findings in our 2011 research. Until then our report remains the most up to date robust UK-wide research-based indication of the prevalence of child abuse and neglect available.

Read our 2011 report

More reports in the How safe are our children? series

How safe are our children? 2016

Our report compiles and analyses the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across the 4 nations in the UK for 2016.
Read the report

How safe are our children? 2015

Our report compiles and analyses the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across the 4 nations in the UK for 2015.
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How safe are our children? 2014

Our report compiles and analyses the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across the 4 nations in the UK for 2014.
Find out more

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 4 nations in the UK for 2013.
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Statistics on child abuse

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The economic cost of child maltreatment in the UK

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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.

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