'Harrowing' rise in deaths of children due to abuse or neglect during pandemic, figures show

There were 536 serious incident reports in England during 2020/21 Credit: PA

A "harrowing" rise in deaths and serious harm of children linked to abuse or neglect in the year since England's first lockdown is a "huge cause for concern", councils have warned.

The number of serious incidents involving children that were reported by authorities have risen by nearly a fifth over the past year, according to the Local Government Association (LGA). The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel received 536 serious incident notifications from councils between April 2020 to March 2021, an increase of 19% from the previous year.

It reverses the trend seen between 2018-19 and 2019-20 when numbers had fallen.

The serious incident notifications referred to 223 deaths and 284 instances of serious harm, with 29 incidents classified as “other”.

Over a third (36%) of these notifications related to children under one, and 55.4% involved males.

Local authorities must notify the panel of the death or serious harm of a child in their area if they know or suspect the child has been abused or neglected.

Reacting to the figures, Anntoinette Bramble, chairwoman of the LGA’s children and young people board, is calling for more funding from children's social care services to invest in help for vulnerable children.

“The pandemic has put extra pressure on families, particularly those living in difficult circumstances, which can fuel harmful acts of abuse or neglect on children."

The LGA added that there is an urgent need for more investment in children’s social care for preventative and early-help services in the forthcoming spending review.

A Department for Education spokesperson said they have invested significant funding to improve safeguarding for infants and adolescents and prioritised vulnerable children throughout the pandemic by keeping schools open to many of them.