Charity boss challenges accuracy of 'at risk' data

Derren Hayes
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Official figures on children in need are massively underestimating the numbers at risk of neglect and abuse, charity boss Camila Batmanghelidjh has said.

The founder and director of Kids Company said methods used by local authorities to identify and classify children at risk do not reflect actual levels because if they did child protection services would be unable to cope with the demand.

She called on government ministers to “have the daring to look for the real numbers of children that are at harm” by coming up with new ways of measuring those at risk.  

Batmanghelidjh made her comments at the NSPCC’s How Safe Are Our Children? conference in response to a speech from children’s minister Edward Timpson, who had outlined the different methods used by government to collect data on vulnerable children.

Addressing Timpson she said: “Local authorities are not giving you the full data. You have to capture the data through other means. If they did give it to you then they would go bankrupt.

“There’s a huge gap between the figures of children classified as needing support and the potential of what these figures could be. For example, the substance misuse group is between 250,000 and 978,000.”

Batmanghelidjh added that official figures reflect “what the system can cope with”.

“Are we able to tell ourselves the truth on the real scale of the problems and consequent resourcing of the services to meet the challenge?” she asked.

Timpson said government figures on vulnerable children were taken from a range of data sources including section 251 returns by councils, the social care census and serious case review findings.

“We’ve got a far more transparent system than we’ve ever had before. It is not the only data we gather,” he added.

Former Association of Directors of Children’s Services president Andrew Webb told the conference that there needed to be greater clarity on what constitutes abuse and how social care should respond to that.

He added: “We don’t have legislation to deal with children that have a crap life. At what point does the state get involved in chronic neglect?”

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