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Trends in Child Protection: England

Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide a child protection (social work) service for the most vulnerable children. They have a number of statutory functions under the 1989 and 2004 Children Acts. The Improvement Board of the Local Government Association (LGA) commissioned the EIF to review the evidence on what works in child protection and to compare this against services being delivered and the nature of decision making in a small number of local authorities. The aim was to establish whether there are messages or conclusions that can be extracted that could help guide investment decisions and advise local government as to how to use scarce resources to best effect in delivering a Children’s Social Care service in this challenging context. The work has also considered if there are any implications for national leadership of the children’s social care system.

Whilst many local authorities have long been interested in the use and application of evidence about what is most effective in protecting vulnerable children, current pressures create the case for looking again at the evidence. The aim of this is to identify whether it is possible to establish a clearer picture of what has been shown to work for certain children and families and whether the available evidence could be brought together and made more accessible to those who need to use it.

This research paper was produced as part of a wider project on improving outcomes within the child protection system, commissioned by the EIF, funded by the LGA and supported by the NSPCC. An overview report, published by the EIF and the LGA, brings together the key findings, lessons and recommendations from this wider programme of research. This paper and others in the series can be accessed via the EIF website, at publication/placeholder-hyperlink-to-be-replaced-later.

Activity in scope for the project was local authority systems, interventions and practice with children and young people who require a social care response, as defined by current legislation and guidance.

This includes:

• children assessed to be in need of services due to risks to their health and development under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989

• children assessed to be experiencing, or at risk of, significant harm and thus requiring a Child Protection Plan under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989

• children assessed to be at such significant risk that care proceedings are necessary and for whom the local authority is going through the Public Law Outline (PLO) process.

Population data used in this report

In this report we draw on UK population data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for England and Wales. The most recent population data draws on the 2014 mid-year population estimates.