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1.6 million vulnerable children potentially lacking any support

There are 1.6 million vulnerable children in England where it is unclear whether they are receiving any sort of support, the children’s commissioner for England has warned.

While there are an estimated 2.1 million of England’s 11.8 million children with risks so serious that they require help, there are 1.6 million vulnerable children where the support is effectively ‘invisible’ – as it is unclear whether they are receiving any coordinated help, despite the difficulties they are growing up with such as parental mental health or substance misuse problems.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “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.”

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 and 30,000 are the registered with their council as a young carer.

The report, “The Children’s Commissioner’s 2018 Report into Childhood Vulnerability”, says that there are considerable overlaps between these groups as many of the children in so-called Troubled Families are also children in need themselves. Once these overlaps are taken into account, the total number of number of children who are actually known to receive some kind of support comes to only 570,000.

This leaves behind another 1.6 million children for whom it is unknown if they are actually getting any sort of formal or structured support.

“Not every vulnerable child needs state intervention, but this research gives us – in stark detail – the scale of need and the challenges ahead. Meeting them will not be easy or cost-free. It will require additional resources, effectively targeted, so that we move from a system that marginalises vulnerable children to one which helps them,” added Anne Longfield.

The estimated 2.1 million children growing up in families with complex needs includes:

  • 890,000 children with parents with serious mental health problems
  • 825,000 children living in homes with domestic violence
  • 470,000 children where there is parental substance misuse problems
  • 100,000 children are living in a family with a “toxic trio” (mental health problems, domestic violence and alcohol and/or substance abuse)
  • 470,000 children live in material deprivation
  • 170,000 children are caring for their parents or siblings

Cllr Roy Perry, Vice Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “This is just the latest in a series of stark warnings about the huge number of children and families in need of help and support, and highlights the immense challenge facing councils and their partners as they try to address growing levels of need with rapidly diminishing resources.

“We want the government to heed these increasingly urgent warnings and accept the critical need for properly funded children's services, which face a funding gap of £3 billion by 2025 just to keep services running at current levels.

“We have long warned of the rising demand councils face, with an average of more than 270 children taken into care or placed on a child protection plan every single day to keep them safe from harm.

“This is becoming unsustainable, with many areas struggling to cope. This report provides further evidence that children's services are being pushed to the brink, and desperately need new resources if they are to provide the essential support that our children and young people rely on and deserve,” he added.

Vulnerability report available here

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