The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has published a new report that brings together a range of information held by various government departments, agencies and others to reveal the scale of child vulnerability in England.
The report estimates that 2.1 million of England’s 11.8 million children (nearly 18%) are living in families with risks so serious that they need some level of help. The study also warns that for three quarters of these vulnerable children, the support is effectively ‘invisible’ so we don’t know if they are actually getting any coordinated help, despite the difficulties they are growing up with.
Some of the risks these children face include parents with mental health problems or parents who are alcoholics or have substance abuse problems.
The 2.1 million children growing up in families with these complex needs includes:
890,000 children with parents suffering serious mental health problems
825,000 children living in homes with domestic violence
470,000 children whose parents use substances problematically
100,000 children who are living in a family with a “toxic trio” (mental health problems, domestic violence and alcohol and/or substance abuse)
470,000 children living in material deprivation
170,000 children who care for their parents or siblings
The report finds that of the 2.1 million children in families with complex needs:
310,000 children are classified as ‘children in need’
410,000 are in families that are being, or have previously been, supported by the Troubled Families programme
30,000 are registered with their council as a young carer
Whilst it is acknowledged that there are considerable overlaps between these groups the total number of number of children who are actually known to receive some kind of support comes to only 570,000. That leaves behind another 1.6 million children for whom it is unknown whether or not they are actually getting any sort of formal or structured support despite their potentially serious family circumstances.
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, commented:
“Over a million of the most vulnerable children in England cannot meet their own ambitions because they are being let down by a system that doesn’t recognise or support them – a system that too often leaves them and their families to fend for themselves until crisis point is reached.
“Supporting vulnerable children should be the biggest social justice challenge of our time. Every day we see the huge pressures on the family courts, schools and the care systems of failing to take long-term action. The cost to the state is ultimately greater than it should be, and the cost to those vulnerable children missing out on support can last a lifetime.
“We get the society we choose – and at the moment we are choosing to gamble with the futures of hundreds of thousands of children.”
Read the full report here