A new study led by the University of East Anglia has moved closer to quantifying for the first time the number of children killed each year through maltreatment.
Working jointly with colleagues at the University of Warwick, the UEA researchers were asked by the Government to analyse Serious Case Reviews (SCR) from 2009 to 2011. Published today by the Department for Education, their findings show that around 85 children die in England each year as a result of abuse or neglect.
Lead author Dr Marian Brandon, of UEA’s Centre for Research on the Child and Family, said: “This report produces a number of new insights alongside the more familiar messages. We now know for the first time that around 85 children die each year as a result of abuse or neglect. Every single death is a shocking and distressing waste of a life, but we have to live with the reality that not all of these deaths can be prevented.”
Dr Peter Sidebotham, of the University of Warwick, led the work on ascertaining the numbers of child deaths. He said: “While there is evidence that overall rates of child abuse fatalities have fallen over recent years, we must not be complacent. There is much we can learn from each child’s death. The lessons from this research can help us all strive to protect other children and support families.”
The study also found that the number of children with a child protection plan already in place at the time they died had dropped from 16 per cent in 2007-09 to 10 per cent for 2009-11. This comes at a time when overall numbers of children with a child protection plan are rising.
“There is clearly no place for complacency, but it is good to see improvement here,” said Dr Brandon.
Another possible sign of improvement was found in the protection of babies. The proportion of SCRs undertaken concerning infants dropped from 46 per cent of all reviews in 2007-09 to 36 per cent in 2009-11.
This is the fourth consecutive two-yearly analysis by this research team of SCRs held in England. Access to a greater number of SCR overview reports for this two-year period allowed the research team to explore themes in a way not previously possible and explore more themes in greater depth than before.
The total number of violent and maltreatment-related deaths of children under 17 was estimated to be 85 per year – or 0.77 per 100,000 children. Of these, around 50 to 55 were directly caused by violence, abuse or neglect. There were a further 30 to 35 in which maltreatment was considered a contributory factor, though not the primary cause of death - for example accidents, sudden unexpected deaths in infancy, and suicide.
‘New Learning from Serious Case Reviews: A two year report for 2009-2011’
by Marian Brandon (UEA), Peter Sidebotham (Warwick), Sue Bailey (UEA), Pippa Belderson (UEA), Carol Hawley (Warwick), Catherine Ellis (Warwick) and Matthew Megson (Warwick) is published on July 26 2012 by the UK Department for Education.
The report can be downloaded here