The number of high level child abuse investigations launched by councils across England has increased by more than 42 per cent over the last three years.
So called ‘Section 47’ investigations refer to section 47 of the Children Act1989, which places a duty on councils to investigate when they “have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm,” and to take action if that child is found to be at risk of abuse or neglect.
In 2012/ 13, councils launched no less than 127,060 section 47 investigations, according to Sky News. The figure represents a jump of 42.3 per cent since 2010 and is the equivalent of one child in 100 across the entire country.
Meanwhile, the number of section 47s is significantly higher in certain areas, Sky reports. More than two per cent of all under 18s in Peterborough have been investigated, as more than 2.5 per cent of children in Doncaster. Blackpool appears to be a particular hotspot, with 4.5 per cent of all children in the town having been made the subject of section 47 investigations, four times the national average.
Ray Jones is a professor of social work at Kingston University. He told Sky News that increasingly levels of poverty in some areas contributing to the rising levels of neglect and abuse.
“I think we’re aware of the dangers more than we were before and I think we’re more determined to act on them, but I do think that there are some families who are getting into difficulty now who wouldn’t have got into difficulty before because of increasing deprivation and indeed destitution.”
At the same time, funding cuts meant social services are under ever greater pressure, he claimed.
“We have a child protection system and a care system where the work has been increasing year on year on year for the last five years and I really am worried about it. I’m worried about it because it’s at the point of breakdown now, because that’s at the time of public sector cuts.”