Huge rise in children seriously injured or killed during first lockdown, government figures show

Fiona Simpson
Monday, January 18, 2021

The number of children killed or seriously injured during the first six months of the coronavirus pandemic increased by more than a quarter on the previous year, new government statistics show.

The biggest rise in cases was among young children, statistics show. Picture: Adobe Stock
The biggest rise in cases was among young children, statistics show. Picture: Adobe Stock

The Children’s Society has said the first Covid-19 lockdown may explain the increase in serious incident notifications reported to Ofsted by local authorities between April and September 2020.

Serious incident notifications involve death or serious harm to a child where abuse or neglect is known or suspected, and also deaths of children in care and children in regulated settings.

Between April and September last year Ofsted received 285 serious incident notifications, a 27 per cent increase on the same period in 2019/20, figures show. 

Of these notifications, 119 related to child deaths, an increase from 89 in the same period of 2019/20.

Some 153 related to the serious harm of a child while a further 13 were classed as “other”.

More than a third (35.8 per cent) of incidents relate to a child under one compared with 30.4 per cent in the previous quarter. 

Almost two thirds of serious incident notifications in the first half of 2020/21 related to white children.

Of those children involved in serious incidents, 8.4 per cent were subject to a child protection plan, statistics show, compared with 7.6 per cent over the same period (April to September) a year previous.

The majority of serious incidents between April and September 2020 happened while a child was living at home (188) compared with 163 during the same period in 2019 and 152 during the previous quarter.

Some 18 children were living with relatives when incidents took place, eight were in semi-independent accommodation; 12 in short-term foster care; eight in long-term foster care; 15 in residential care and 12 in hospital.

In four cases it was “not known” where a child was living at the time and 20 were classed as “other”.

Iryna Pona, policy manager at The Children’s Society, said: “The increase in these incidents happened at a time when Covid-19 was having a huge impact on the wellbeing of children and families and disrupted help available to those who needed it most.

“During the first lockdown many vulnerable children were stuck at home in difficult, sometimes dangerous situations, often isolated from friends and support networks.

“Sadly, children also continued to be targeted and groomed by people outside their families for sexual and criminal exploitation like county lines drug dealing operations, which can lead to serious violence or death.

“At the same time, they were often hidden from view of professionals like social workers and teachers who are best placed to spot the signs they may be in danger.”

Pona has called for increased support for vulnerable children during the current national lockdown as well as a “radical overhaul” of children’s social care in the newly announced Care Review.

She added: “During this further lockdown, it is vital that social care and schools work together closely to ensure all vulnerable children, including those in care, have regular contact with a trusted professional – be it a teacher, social worker or healthcare worker – who is able to spot the signs they may be at risk and help them access support.

“Children who survived these incidents will need help to stay safe including support with the trauma they experienced. Beyond that, there must be a long-term recovery plan to help vulnerable children and young people recover from the impact of the pandemic, including easier access to support with their emotional and mental health and wellbeing, both in school and in the community.

“These figures also show a small increase in the numbers of children coming to harm who do not live in a family home.”

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