Austerity and rising poverty has led to the number of vulnerable children being taken into care or placed on child protection plans increasing for the fifth year in succession, experts have said.
Provisional data, using official statistics and fresh figures obtained under Freedom of Information (FOI), show that the number of at-risk children being looked after by the state rose by 8%, or 5,000, under the coalition government.
The number of youngsters placed on child protection plans – meaning they are closely monitored by social workers to ensure their safety – rose by 33% to 52,000 over the same period, while the number of “section 47 inquiries” – to determine whether individual children are being abused or neglected – increased by 42% to 159,000.
Child protection experts said this increase in demand had put huge pressure on the finances of social workers’ and children’s services departments at a time when local authority budgets had been cut by 40%.
Alison O’Sullivan, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said the rise child protection activity was in part down to the impact of austerity and welfare cuts on the poorest families.
She told the Guardian: “What we are seeing is a consequence of austerity over an extended period. Pressures on the benefit system and the way it washes through will have a great impact on these families, many of whom were struggling in the first place.”