A report by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel said too many cases of life-threatening child abuse were missed because practitioners failed to engage with the children directly.

The report held that 150 children died of abuse in 2021, and urged the government to reform children’s social care and to “strengthen the child protection system”.

The panel also said that 379 serious incident notifications had been made in the same year.

Serious incident notifications are those which involve death or serious harm to a child where abuse or neglect is known or suspected, and any death of a looked after child. The definition is therefore problematic as suspected abuse is not evidence of actual abuse, or serious harm.

Also problematic is the experimental nature of the data, which the ONS classifies as “official statistics that are in the testing phase and not yet fully developed, ” and includes the warning that “users should be aware that experimental statistics will potentially have a wider degree of uncertainty.”

These variables make it much harder to treat the data as conclusive, or accurate.

The panel said in the review that “there are fault lines in the system that inhibit good information-sharing, risk assessment and critical analysis and challenge,” and that “the analysis of the statistics demonstrated that in too many instances, practitioners are relying on parents reporting a situation rather than engaging directly with children.”

The panel made the following recommendations:

  • Support critical thinking and professional challenge through effective leadership and culture
  • Understand the importance of a whole family approach to risk assessment and support
  • Give central consideration to racial, ethnic and cultural identity, and impact on the lived experience of children and families
  • Recognise and respond to the vulnerability of babies
  • Acknowledge domestic abuse and harm to children – working across services
  • Keep a focus on risks outside the family

You can access the full report here.