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Wednesday, 04 July 2018

Report warns most vulnerable children let down by system and left to fend for themselves

Written by Catherine Wylie

More than two million children in England are growing up in families where there are serious risks, a study has found.

The Children's Commissioner, Anne Longfield, said more than a million of the most vulnerable in the country are being let down by a system that leaves them to "fend for themselves".

Her report into childhood vulnerability estimates that 2.1 million of England's 11.8 million children are living in families with risks so serious that they need some level of help.

Some of the risks these children face include parents with mental health problems or parents who are alcoholics or have substance abuse problems.

Of the 2.1 million children, there are 890,000 with parents suffering serious mental health problems, 825,000 living in homes with domestic violence, and 100,000 children who are living in a family with a "toxic trio", mental health problems, domestic violence and alcohol and/or substance abuse.

The report widens the groups of children associated with forms of vulnerability or risk from 32 to 37 (with 70 sub-groups) after identifying new groups of vulnerable children.

Ms Longfield said: "Over a million of the most vulnerable children in England cannot meet their own ambitions because they are being let down by a system that doesn't recognise or support them, a system that too often leaves them and their families to fend for themselves until crisis point is reached.

"Not every vulnerable child needs state intervention, but this research gives us, in stark detail, the scale of need and the challenges ahead.

"Meeting them will not be easy or cost-free.

"It will require additional resources, effectively targeted, so that we move from a system that marginalises vulnerable children to one which helps them.

"Supporting vulnerable children should be the biggest social justice challenge of our time.

"Every day we see the huge pressures on the family courts, schools and the care systems of failing to take long-term action.

"The cost to the state is ultimately greater than it should be, and the cost to those vulnerable children missing out on support can last a lifetime.

"We get the society we choose and at the moment we are choosing to gamble with the futures of hundreds of thousands of children."

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: "It's our most vulnerable children who are paying the price for the punishing central government cuts to council budgets, and being left without the early help they desperately need.

"Every day at Action for Children we see families suffering at the hands of domestic abuse, neglect or alcoholism - scars that can stay with children for the rest of their lives.

"But cash-strapped councils, in an impossible financial position, are being asked to deliver critical children's services with one hand tied behind their backs.

"Our own research shows they are being forced to focus on children in crisis and simply can't afford the early-help services families need to prevent problems from spiralling."

Roy Perry, vice chairman of the Local Government Association's children and young people board, said: "We want the Government to heed these increasingly urgent warnings and accept the critical need for properly funded children's services, which face a funding gap of £3 billion by 2025 just to keep services running at current levels.

"We have long warned of the rising demand councils face, with an average of more than 270 children taken into care or placed on a child protection plan every single day to keep them safe from harm."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Pixabay.