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Child protection: Thirty-first Report of Session 2016–17

Report, together with formal minutes relating to the report

Children in need of help or support are, by definition, among the most vulnerable members of our society, often facing neglect or abuse. But, for far too long, services for the nearly 800,000 children in need of help or protection every year have not been good enough. In 2010, the Department for Education recognised that services had to improve and started to introduce a series of reforms. In 2011, the Munro review on improving the child protection system was published. But progress on improving help and protection services for children has been too slow and six years later only 23% of services are judged by Ofsted as Good. By no standards can this be seen as an improvement.

The Department seemed to us worryingly complacent that nothing can be done to improve services more quickly. The Department’s newly stated ambition to improve services by 2020 is welcome but the Department lacks a credible plan for how and by when it will make a difference and ensure that local authorities are intervening effectively to make a difference to these children’s lives. The Committee will continue to monitor the Department’s slow progress in improving children’s services and will return to the subject during the course of this Parliament.Local authorities have statutory duties for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in their area and work with the police and health services, among others, to meet these duties. In 2014–15, authorities spent £1.8 billion on children’s social work, including on child protection. The Department for Education (the Department) is responsible for the legal and policy frameworks within which authorities operate. The Department also publishes data; sets the framework against which Ofsted inspects each authority’s services; and intervenes where an authority fails to deliver services to an acceptable standard. In 2010, the Department recognised that child protection services were not good enough and commissioned the Munro review. In 2014–15, local authorities accepted 635,600 requests for services to be provided by children’s social care because of concerns about a child’s welfare. The total number of children in need of help or protection across the year was over 780,000. If an authority suspects a child is at risk of significant harm, it may need to put in place a child protection plan. In 2014–15, 62,200 children became the subject of a plan and over the past ten years, the rate of children starting on plans has risen by 94%. By 2016, the Department acknowledged that the quality of work with children and families was still too inconsistent and published new plans to ensure that all vulnerable children, no matter where they live, receive the same high quality care and support by 2020.