“Children grow to fill the space we create for them, and if it’s big, they grow tall.”
Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan
This report was written in 2009 by KARA’s Macalaster Student Volunteer (Thank You Lelde) on abused and neglected children in the UK. The entire report can be read by clicking the “read more” button at the end.
In 1889, the first act of parliament for the prevention of cruelty to children (the Children’s Charter) was passed. In 1932 all existing child protection laws were united under a single piece of legislation. In 1968 the Social Work Act gave authority to local authorities for investigating child abuse.
Of 11 million children in England, 235,000 receive support from a local authority; 60,000 are looked after by a local authority, 37,000 are the subject of a care order; 29,000 are the subject of a Child Protection Plan, 1300 are privately fostered & 300 are in secure children’s homes.
Of America’s 73 million children, about 750,000 are in county adoption, foster care and child protection and another 1.8 million living with relatives. This would indicate an American rate of child abuse (children that are out of the home or in child protection) approximately three times that found in England.
Reading this study closely, it appears that many UK children fail to receive the help they need (which may account for some of the big disparity in rates of child abuse between our nations).
The NSPCC child Maltreatment study found that one in six children experienced serious maltreatment; it appears that only one in one hundred children received services.
16% of UK children under 16 experienced sexual abuse during childhood by people known but unrelated to them, with the majority reporting more than one incident. 72% of those children told no one at the time, 31% told no one by early adulthood.
25% of UK children experienced physical violence during childhood; 78% happened at home, 15% at school, & 13% in public places.
Of the 189 children reported murdered or injured by their caregivers, only 33 had child protection cases open.
Invisible Children Around the World; United Kingdom
“Children grow to fill the space we create for them, and if it’s big, they grow tall.”
Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan
Brief History of Child Protection in UK
In 1889, the first act of parliament for the prevention of cruelty to children, commonly known as the ‘children’s charter’ was passed. For the first time it enabled the state to intervene in relations between parents and children and police could arrest anyone they found ill-treating a child and enter a home if a child was thought to be in danger.
The Children’s Act of 1908 established juvenile courts and introduced the registration of foster parents. The Children and Young Persons Act of 1932 broadened the powers of juvenile courts and introduced supervision orders for children at risk also uniting all existing child protection laws under a single piece of legislation. Under 1968 Social Work Act, local authority social work departments replaced children, welfare, health and probation committees and local authorities took over responsibilities for investigating child abuse.
The Children Act of 1989 gave every child the right to protection from abuse and exploitation and the right to inquires to safeguard their welfare. It emphasized that children were usually best looked after within their family but in case of emergency children needed to be removed from their immediate relatives in order to safeguard their well-being and health. In 1999 the Protection of Children Act was passed, specifically aiming to prevent pedophiles from working with children.
The Act required childcare organizations in England and Wales to inform the Department of Health about anyone known to them who was suspected of harming children or putting them at risk.
In January 2003, Lord Laming published a report of death of child abuse victim Victoria Climbie, which claimed that health, police and social services had missed 12 opportunities to save the child. Attracting great public attention in September a government policy paper titled “Every Child Matters” is released and proposes an electronic tracking system for England’s children.
150 children’s trusts across the country were to be set up by 2006, amalgamating health, education and social services, a children’s director to oversee local services, statutory local safeguarding children boards and a children’s commission for England. The Children Act 2004 pushed forward the main proposals of this government policy paper and it was passed by the parliament. Simultaneously, however, it allowed local authorities more flexibility in organizing their children’s services.
I. Child Abuse and Neglect: Situational Analysis
Despite the aforementioned successes in the field of child abuse and neglect prevention laws and policies, the statistics about child abuse and neglect is rather grim. Looking back over the past 30 years, child deaths from abuse and neglect have not decreased. Current figures show that one to two children are killed each week, the majority by their parents or carers.
Of the 98 child homicides in England and Wales in 2000/2001, parents were the chief suspects in 76 cases. On average there are between 100 and 200 serious case reviews each year involving the death or serious injury of children as a result of abuse or neglect. Infants are particularly vulnerable as the death rate from severe physical abuse is 10 times higher in babies than children aged one to five years old. Studies have shown that up to one in ten children suffer harm at some point in their childhood.
It is difficult to state an overall single figure of maltreatment. This is because each form of maltreatment may not happen in isolation from other forms, for example physical abuse might be experienced alongside emotional abuse. The closest thing to an aggregate prevalence figure is from the second volume of the NSPCC Child Maltreatment study, which examined abuse and neglect within the family. It found that 16% of children (1 in 6) experienced serious maltreatment by parents, of whom one third experienced more than one type of maltreatment. Adding those children who experienced intermediate levels of maltreatment, the total percentage of children experiencing some degree of maltreatment by parents at some time in their childhood rises to 38%.
There is no aggregate figure for all maltreatment by mothers and fathers from the NSPCC prevalence study. The study did find, however, that both parents were equally likely to be involved in maltreatment (physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect), with the exception of sexual abuse. For the 1% of children aged under 16 who experienced sexual abuse by a parent or carer, it almost always involved fathers or step-fathers.
Out of 11 million children in England, 200,000 children live in households where there is a known high risk case of domestic abuse and violence; 235,000 are ‘children in need’ and in receipt of support from a local authority; 60,000 are looked after by a local authority, 37,000 are the subject of care order; 29,000 are the subject of Child Protection Plan, 1,300 are privately fostered and 300 are in secure children’s homes.
Study conducted in 2000 of the prevalence of child abuse and neglect defined neglect in two ways: the absence of physical care at home and the absence of supervision by parents or carers. The data revealed the following:
• 6% of children experienced serious absence of care at home during childhood
• 5% of children experienced serious absence of supervision during childhood.
• 18% of children experienced some absence of care during childhood and 20% experienced less than adequate supervision.
• 7% of children experienced serious physical abuse at the hands of their parents or carers during childhood
• 1% of children aged under 16 experienced sexual abuse by a parent or carer and a further 3% by another relative during childhood.
• 11% of children experienced sexual abuse by people known but unrelated to them
• 5% of children experienced sexual abuse by an adult stranger or someone they had just met
• 6% of children experienced serious absence of care at home during childhood.
• 5% of children experienced serious absence of supervision during childhood
• 6% of children experienced frequent and severe emotional maltreatment during childhood.
In 2007/2008, 55 children were reported killed by someone known to the child. However, over 80% of children killed or serious injured through neglect or abuse was not on England’s child protection registers.
Only 33 of the 189 children whose death or injury in 2005 to 2007 led to a review were on the registers. Marion Brandon, a University of East Anglia academic who is leading an analysis of the serious case reviews, revealed that social workers often struggled to respond appropriately: “They make an early assessment and do not tend to change their minds. They keep looking for evidence that supports their view and that can be very dangerous and they might stick to saying it is a case of neglect when it is actually abuse.”
While child protection registers are not a measure of the incidence of maltreatment but do give some indication of the scale of the problem. However, research indicates that abuse and neglect are both under-reported and under-registered.
Nearly 32,000 children in the UK are known to be at risk of abuse right now. Latest available figures show that there were 31,919 children on child protection registers in the UK as at 31 March 2006. The division is the following:
• England: 26,400
• Northern Ireland: 1,639
• Wales: 2,163
• Scotland: 2,288
Approximately 38,000 registrations were made to child protection registers in the UK between 1 April 2005 and 31 March 2006: in England: 31,500; in Northern Ireland: 1,166; in Wales: 2,870; in Scotland: 2,791.
On average, over 700 registrations are made to child protection registers in the UK each week. However, because new registrations, re-registrations and de-registrations occur throughout the year, the net annual increase in registrations is actually quite small (the net annual increase in registrations for the UK from 1 April 2005 to 31 March 2006 was 1,426).
II. Statistics on Homicide in United Kingdom
On average, every week in England and Wales one to two children are killed at the hands of another person and each week at least one child dies from cruelty.
On average, 67 children in England and Wales are killed at the hands of another person every year. In 2005/2006, 55 children were killed at the hands of another person in England and Wales. While the number of child homicides fluctuates each year, the overall child homicide rate in England and Wales has remained broadly similar since the 1970s. Infants aged under one are more at risk of being killed at the hands of another person than any age group of child under 18 in England and Wales.
Almost two thirds of children killed at the hands of another person in England and Wales are aged under five.
Every ten days in England and Wales one child is killed at the hands of their parent and in half (52%) of all cases of children killed at the hands of another person, the parent is the principal suspect. Killings of children by a natural parent are committed in roughly equal proportions by mothers (47%) and fathers (53%), but that where the child is killed by someone other than a parent, males strongly predominate.
III. Statistics on Child Sexual Abuse in United Kingdom
1% of children aged under 16 experienced sexual abuse by a parent or carer, and a further 3% by another relative during childhood. 11% of children aged under 16 experienced sexual abuse during childhood by people known but unrelated to them. 5% of children aged under 16 experienced sexual abuse during childhood by an adult stranger or someone they had just met.
In total, 16% of children aged under 16 experienced sexual abuse during childhood. 11% of this was contact abuse and 6% was non-contact. Overall, 11% of boys aged under 16 and 21% of girls aged under 16 experienced sexual abuses during childhood.
The majority of children who experienced sexual abuse had more than one sexually abusive experience; only indecent exposure was likely to be a single incident. Three-quarters (72%) of sexually abused children did not tell anyone about the abuse at the time. 27% told someone later. Around a third (31%) still had not told anyone about their experience(s) by early adulthood.
More than one third (36%) of all rapes recorded by the police are committed against children under 16 years of age. A study which examined police data on rapes committed against children found that children under the age of 12 were the most likely of all those aged 16 and under to have reported being raped by someone they knew well.
Children under the age of 12 were least likely to have been raped by a stranger but children between 13 and 15 years of age were the most likely to have reported being raped by an ‘acquaintance’. For the children who experienced sexual abuse in the family, the most common perpetrator was a brother or stepbrother:
o 38% of penetrative/oral acts of sexual abuse in the family were by a brother/stepbrother
o 23% were perpetrated by a father
o 14% were perpetrated by an uncle
o 13% were perpetrated by a stepfather
o 8% were perpetrated by a cousin
o 6% were perpetrated by a grandfather
o 4% were perpetrated by a mother.
IV. Statistics on Physical Violence Against Children in United Kingdom
A quarter (25%) of children experienced one or more forms of physical violence during childhood. This includes being hit with an implement, being hit with a fist or kicked, shaken, thrown or knocked down, beaten up, choked, burned or scalded on purpose, or threatened with a knife or gun.
Of this 25% of children, the majority had experienced ‘some degree of physical abuse’ by parents or carers. In total, 21% of children experienced some degree of physical abuse at the hands of their parents or carers. 7% of children experienced ‘serious physical abuse’ and 14% ‘intermediate physical abuse’ at the hands of their parents or carers. A further 3% of respondents experienced aspects of childrearing which could give ’cause for concern’.
Of the quarter (25%) of children who had experienced physical violence during childhood, for the majority it happened at home. The violence occurred in the following places:
o 78% of respondents said this violence happened at home
o 15% had experienced the violence at school
o 13% said the violence had happened in a public place.
Almost a quarter (24%) of children experienced physical maltreatment in their families that at least sometimes breached ‘acceptable societal standards’. 7% of children experienced serious physical abuse at the hands of their parents or carers during childhood. The person responsible for physical violence during childhood was most often the mother (49%) or father (40%).
Violence was reported as being carried out by some stepfathers (5%) or stepmothers (3%), grandparents (3%), and other relatives (1%). Violence by peers was also reported, with 10% naming brothers, 3% sisters and 14% other young people as responsible.
One of the main challenges is to ensure that leaders of local services effectively translate policy, legislation and guidance into day-to-day practice on the frontline of every service. Leaders of local services must recognize the importance of early intervention and ensure that their departments support children as soon as they are recognized as being ‘in need’, averting escalation to the point at which families are in crisis.
Early intervention is vital – not only in ensuring that fewer and fewer children grow up in abusive or neglectful homes, but also to help as many children as possible reach their full potential.
The Audit Commission has estimated that, if effective early intervention had been provided for just one in ten of those young people sentenced to custody each year, public services alone could have saved over £100 million annually.
A recent report by Graham Allen and Iain Duncan Smith highlights the need for early intervention, noting that “child poverty and income are only part of the picture.
Building human capabilities is at least as important and rewarding. Capable, competent human beings will almost always find their way in life, find work and raise happy families.”
The report also highlights the importance of the first years of a child’s life and how they lay the foundation for that child’s growth and development.
The authors believe that “medical evidence points overwhelmingly in favor of a shift to Early Intervention. It highlights the essential importance of years 0–3 in human development, and the vital influence on years 0–3 of their primary caregivers.
That in turn makes it essential to prepare children of 0–18 for their future role as parents. Skills that for generations were passed on, almost unconsciously, now have to be taught: if they are not, we will all reap the consequences.”
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