"Hidden from view": Sharp rise in serious incidents after first lockdown in England

New figures show the number of serious incidents of children dying or being seriously harmed after suspected abuse or neglect rose by more than a quarter after the first lockdown.

New figures released show that The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel received 285 serious incident notifications from April to September in 2020 – a 27% increase from the same period the previous year.

Serious incident notifications include all incidents where a child dies or is seriously harmed where abuse or neglect is suspected, as well as all deaths of children in care and children in regulated settings.

Of the 285 notifications, 119 were related to child deaths – an increase from 89 in the same period the previous year.

More than a third (35.8%) of the serious incident notifications related to children under the age of one.

The majority of incidents (two thirds) occurred whilst living at home, however, there was a slight increases in the proportion of incidents occurring in other placements.

Eight percent of the serious incident reports involved a young person subject to a child protection plan, while 86% of children were known to other agencies.

Iryna Pona, policy manager at the Children's Society, said the increase in incidents last year happened at a time when Covid-19 was having a "huge impact on the well-being of children and families and disrupted help available to those who needed it most".

"During the first lockdown many vulnerable children were stuck at home in difficult, sometimes dangerous situations, often isolated from friends and support networks.

"Sadly, children also continued to be targeted and groomed by people outside their families for sexual and criminal exploitation like county lines drug dealing operations, which can lead to serious violence or death. At the same time, they were often hidden from view of professionals like social workers and teachers who are best placed to spot the signs if they may be in danger."

A government spokeswoman said: "Every single incident of this nature is a tragedy and we are working to understand the impact the pandemic may be having.”

Gloucestershire County Council

Safeguarding Team Manager (Children's Social Work)

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