Statistics on child abuse How many children are abused or neglected in the UK

We don't know exactly how many children in the UK are victims of child abuse. Child abuse is usually hidden from view and children may be too young, too scared or too ashamed to tell anyone about what is happening to them.

However, there are a number of different sources of information, including official government statistics and academic research. These give us an indication of the number of children who are affected by abuse.

There are currently over 57,000 children identified as needing protection from abuse in the UK

Explanation: There were 57,345 children in the UK on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans on 31 March 2015 (or 31 July 2015 in Scotland). This is based on figures from each UK nation.

For the source of these figures please see our summary of child protection register and plan statistics in the UK (PDF).

See also Indicator 13 in How safe are our children? 2016 and our summary of child protection plan and register statistics in the UK (PDF).

illustration of umbrella

We estimate that for every child identified as needing protection from abuse, another 8 are suffering abuse

Explanation: For every child placed on a child protection plan or the child protection register, we estimate there are another 8 children who are suffering from abuse and neglect and not getting the support they need.

Our calculation is based on the proportion of children who experienced maltreatment at the hands of their parents/carers in the previous year identified through research compared with the number of children who are on a child protection plan or the child protection register.

To find out more see our annual report How safe are our children? 2013.

How safe are our children?

Cover of How safe are our children?Every year we compile the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

We set out 20 different indicators to help us identify trends over time and across nations and to answer the question "how safe are our children?".

Below are the main findings of our most recent report published in 2016.

Child deaths from homicide or assault are in  long term decline

Explanation: The five-year average rates have declined in all 4 UK nations:

  • child homicides recorded by police including the offences of murder, manslaughter and infanticide since the early 2000s
  • and child mortality deaths by assault and undetermined intent since the early 1980s.

See also Indicators 1 and 2 in How safe are our children? 2016.

Reports of sexual offences against children have increased sharply

Explanation: Police recorded 47,008 sexual offences against children in the UK in 2014/5.

In 2014/15, police in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales recorded the highest number of sexual offences against children in the past decade.

All 4 nations saw a sharp increase in 2014/15 possibly due to an increased willingness to report abuse following recent high profile sexual abuse cases in the media.

See also Indicator 4 in How safe are our children? 2016.

Numbers of children in the child protection system are increasing

Explanation: In the past year the total number of children subject to child protection plans (CPPs) or on child protection registers (CPRs) increased in the UK, as did the total number of children becoming subject to plans or being added to the register.

The number of children subject to CPPs or added to CPRs increased in England and Northern Ireland but decreased slightly in Scotland and Wales.

The number of children becoming subject to CPPs or on CPRs continued to increase in England and Wales, but decreased slightly in Northern Ireland and Scotland. 

See also Indicator 13 in How safe are our children? 2016.

How we use statistics

Compiling data for How safe are our children? is part of our commitment to evidence.

It helps us to understand the child protection landscape which helps us start a conversation about what’s working and – more importantly – what isn’t, and what we can do about it.

Find out about what we're fighting for in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and our UK-wide It’s Time campaign to make sure every child gets support after abuse.

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

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Child abuse and neglect statistics

Online abuse

We do not know exactly how many children experience online abuse. But official statistics, research studies and what children tell us, give us a good idea about the abuse they are experiencing.

View facts and statistics

Sexual abuse

A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. Official statistics show the amount of child sexual abuse recorded by authorities in the year.

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Physical abuse

We do not know exactly how many children are physically abused. But official statistics, research studies and what children tell us, give us a good idea about the abuse they are experiencing.

View facts and statistics

Neglect

Neglect is the most common reason for a child to be the subject of a child protection plan or on a child protection register in the UK, but it isn’t always easy to identify.

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Emotional abuse

Official statistics help show us how many children have been identified as being at risk of harm from emotional abuse and research studies give us a better picture of children’s experiences

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Child sexual exploitation

Official statistics tell us how many sexually exploited children have been identified by the authorities - but this is only the tip of the iceberg.

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Female genital mutilation (FGM)

We don’t know how many girls and women are affected by, or at risk of, FGM in the UK. We can esimate the scale of the problem in the UK by looking at what we know in other countries.

View facts and statistics

Bullying and cyberbullying

There are no official statistics on the number of children who are bullied. But from research studies and from what children tell us, we know that bullying is an issue that affects almost all children in some way.

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Domestic abuse

There are no official statistics on the number of children who live with domestic abuse. But research studies tell us about children’s experience of living with violence.

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Child trafficking

We don’t know exactly how many children have been trafficked into or within the UK. Trafficking is a hidden crime and recorded statistics are almost certainly an under-estimate.

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Harmful sexual behaviour

Children and young people who develop harmful sexual behaviour harm themselves and others. There are no official statistics that tell us how many children have harmful sexual behaviour and estimates come from research studies.

View facts and statistics

UK child protection statistics

England

We don't know exactly how many children in England have experienced child abuse. But official statistics do tell us how many children have been identified as needing support or protection.

View facts and statistics

Northern Ireland

Official statistics help tell us how many children in Northern Ireland have been identified as needing support or protection.

View facts and statistics

Scotland

We don't know exactly how many children in Scotland have experienced child abuse. But official statistics do tell us how many children have been identified as needing support or protection.

View facts and statistics

Wales

Official statistics help tell us how many children in Wales have been identified as needing support or protection.

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Children in care

Each UK nation collects and publishes statistics about looked after children, telling us about where children in care live and why they are in care

View facts and statistics

Support for professionals

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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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