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Revolving Door Part 2: Are we failing children at risk of abuse and neglect?

Our core mission at Action for Children is that any child that needs help gets help so it is of major concern to us when this doesn’t happen.

A year ago, we published research showing that there were an estimated 140,000 children on the fringes of social care without support. These children were referred to local authority children’s services because someone was worried about them, were assessed, but did not meet thresholds for statutory support, and then were not signposted to other help.

At the time, we questioned if the children left in this situation, end up in a revolving door being re-referred into children’s social care, only getting help when they reach crisis point. Now we can reveal just how many of these children are coming back for help year after year because the opportunity for early intervention may have been missed.

New figures for this report reveal that over a two-year period, as many as 36,000 children had to be referred a number of times before there was any statutory intervention to help them with serious issues like abuse and neglect and family dysfunction.

This is important. Vital family support services for problems like domestic violence and substance misuse can provide help that can stop problems spiraling out of control, and prevent the need for statutory services later on. However, years of central government budget cuts mean that often, these essential support services are no longer available. This can lead to poor outcomes for children and families. Analysis of serious case reviews where children had had some contact with children’s social care found that 45% involved children who were below the threshold for a statutory service.

It also leads to poor outcomes for local authorities who may end up paying for more costly interventions: research found that for every £1 invested in targeted services designed to catch problems early, society benefits by between £7.60 and £9.20.

There is a compelling case to support these children, but they are often overlooked; this report is one of the first to look at who these children are and what happens to them. Our analysis looks at a two-year period from 2013/14 to 2014/15.