Childhood vulnerability

Over two million children in England are growing up in families where there are serious risks, major study from Children’s Commissioner reveals

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The Children’s Commissioner has published Vulnerability report 2018 which brings together a range of information held by various government departments, agencies and others to reveal the scale of child vulnerability in England.  It estimates that 2.1 million of England’s 11.8 million children – one in six – are living in families with risks so serious that they need some level of help.

The study also warns that for 1.6 million of those vulnerable children, the support is effectively ‘invisible’ – 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

Full detail: Children’s Commissioner’s annual study of childhood vulnerability in England

Summary document: Vulnerability Report 2018



Working together to safeguard children

Revised statutory guidance on inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.  It sets out new legal requirements for local police, councils and health services who will be required to make joint safeguarding decisions | Department for Education


Children at risk of abuse or neglect will now be protected through improved partnerships between local police, councils and health services.

Strengthened guidance published by the Department for Education sets new legal requirements for the three safeguarding partners, who will be required to make joint safeguarding decisions to meet the needs of local children and families.

Senior police, council and health leaders will jointly be responsible for setting out local plans to keep children safe and will be accountable for how well agencies work together to protect children from abuse and neglect.

The new advice is aimed at all professionals who come in to contact with children and families and includes guidance on current threats to child protection, such as sexual and criminal exploitation, gangs and radicalisation.

Full detail: The Department of Education | Working together to safeguard children

Additional link: Press release

Keeping Children Safe: a multicentre programme of research to increase the evidence base for preventing unintentional injuries in the home in the under-fives.

Kendrick D, Ablewhite J, Achana F, Benford P, Clacy R, Coffey F, et al. Keeping Children Safe: a multicentre programme of research to increase the evidence base for preventing unintentional injuries in the home in the under-fives. Programme Grants Appl Res 2017;5(14)

Burns, scalds, falls and poisoning are major causes of death, disability and health service use in the under-fives. We undertook 13 studies to explore factors associated with injuries, what prevents injuries, the cost of the injuries to the NHS and parents, and what parents and children’s centres (which provide families with information, support and co-ordinated services from a range of professionals) were doing to prevent injuries.

We used evidence from these studies to design a resource [an injury prevention briefing (IPB)] for children’s centres to use with parents for preventing house fire injuries. We gave 12 children’s centres the IPB, with training and support to implement it, (IPB+ group) and 12 centres the IPB without training or support (IPB-only group). A further 12 centres were not given the IPB (usual-care group). Children’s centres in both IPB groups used the IPB and increased injury prevention activity, more markedly in the IPB+ centres. The IPB did not increase how many families had a fire escape plan in either IPB group, but did increase some fire escape behaviours in both groups. Providing the IPB without training and support cost less and was slightly more effective than not providing the IPB. Providing the IPB with training and support cost more but was only slightly more effective than not providing the IPB. Children’s centres can increase some fire safety behaviours in families with young children if they are provided with evidence-based resources such as the IPB. A further IPB has been produced for the prevention of fire-related injuries, falls, poisonings and scalds.