Child abuse is rapidly declining

Child abuse is rapidly declining in England according to the most recent statistics published by the Department for Education and Skills (Statistics of Education – Referrals, Assessments, and Children and Young People on Child Protection Registers : Year Ending 31 March 2004).

The statistics show that at the 31 March 2004 the number of children on Child Protection Registers had declined to 26,300, which was 25% fewer than in 1994. The child population of England is 11 million children.

This figure can be reduced even further as 3,400 children on the Child Protection Registers at 31 March 2004 were actually in the care of local authorities and presumably were not therefore `At Risk’.

Also included in the figures of 26,300 children on the Child Protection Registers are 11,000 children categorised as `Neglect’. Yet it is arguable whether neglect is a form of child abuse. In many cases the neglect of children can be affected by a large number of social factors such as insufficiency of income, a disabled parent, mismanagement of income, lack of parenting skills, unemployment, absence of a parent, lack of educational opportunities, etc. Neglect is not necessarily caused by a deliberate act, nor is it necessarily caused by a parent, nor is it necessarily the result of a situation over which the parent has any control.

During the year the total number of referrals of children to Social Services Departments was 572,700 and of these, 72,100 referrals were the subject of Section 47 enquiries, i.e. allegations of abuse. This was a notable reduction from 160,000 in 1997, though this may be explained by changes in definitions and systems in the collection of data which the DfES state occurred in 2001.

Of the 72,100 reported cases of child abuse, there were 38,500 which were ‘substantiated’ by social work enquiries and led to Child Protection Conferences. Therefore 33,600 referrals were ‘not substantiated’, i.e. “Where an investigation concluded that there was no reasonable cause to suspect prior, current, or future abuse, neglect, or harm to the child”. They were false accusations of child abuse for mistaken, mischievous, malicious or monetary reasons.

Of the 38,500 children who were subjected to Child Protection Conferences, there were 31,000 placed on the Child Protection Register. Again, there were a further 7,500 referrals where there was insufficient evidence to convince a group of professionals.

Most notable was the decline in the number of children placed on Child Protection Registers for alleged sexual abuse during the year, i.e. 2,800 children. This was a rapid decline from the year 2000 when 5,100 children were placed on the Register for alleged sexual abuse.

Some conclusions which may be drawn from these statistics :

There is no ‘hidden iceberg’ of child abuse. In fact, quite the opposite is apparent from these statistics when it is seen that a large proportion of those children referred for alleged abuse, i.e. less than 43% of child abuse referrals (72,100/31,000) are found not to be able to satisfy the standard of proof of a Child Protection Conference. The standard of proof at Child Protection Conferences is very low and is largely the collection of information and opinions of professionals. It is far lower than that of the ‘balance of probabilities’ of a Family Court and it is untested by challenge or requirement for detailed explanation.

Claims that there is a vast amount, or indeed any amount of child abuse which is unreported, is therefore pure mythology, and it can be reasonably claimed on the basis of these statistics that child abuse is grossly over-reported. Allegations of the sexual abuse of children are declining far more rapidly than any other category of alleged abuse of children.

Most concerning is that 41,100 children and their families (72,100 – 31,000) were unnecessarily drawn into intrusive, invasive, unnecessary and unwarranted child protection investigations, which cause children severe and long-lasting harm and have a devastating effect on their families who are stigmatised and shunned, isolated, and reviled in their neighbourhoods and communities. They have had no fair and just opportunity to refute and rebut the accusations made against them.

Charles Pragnell is an Expert Witness in Child Protection and a Child/Family Advocate

1 thought on “Child abuse is rapidly declining”

  1. i think you will find that its the kids that are in so called care that are the main ones at risk . please tell me how many privet childrens homes you no of…. most running without planning permision… or planninmg pending ,,,,with staff waitting for there c r b checks commin back this can give them a FREE 28 DAYS TO RAPE SMALL CHILDEN LEAGLLY…..


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