The Children Act 2004 (as amended by the Children and Social Work Act 2017) states that where a local authority in England knows or suspects that a child has been abused or neglected, the local authority must notify the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel (the Panel) and by extension the Department and Ofsted if:
(a) the child dies or is seriously harmed in the local authority’s area, or
(b) while normally resident in the local authority’s area, the child dies or is seriously harmed outside England.
The local authority must also notify the Secretary of State and Ofsted where a looked after child has died, whether or not abuse or neglect is known or suspected.
The statutory duty to notify the Panel came into effect from 29 June 2018. Prior to this, notifications were made to Ofsted.
Serious harm includes (but is not limited to) serious and/or long-term impairment of a child’s mental health or intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development. It also covers impairment of physical health.
The data shows the number of incidents reported in the period, rather than the number of incidents that occurred in the period. The data is based on single notifiable incidents, which can relate to more than one child in some instances.
The local authority should notify the Panel within 5 working days of becoming aware that the incident has occurred. However, we know that in some cases, there is a delay in notifications being submitted. In addition, whilst reporting has improved in recent years, the Department is aware that, in some instances, not all incidents that meet the definition for a serious incident are notified, particularly those relating to serious harm.
These statistics have been published as official statistics for the first time within this release, whereas previously they were classified as experimental statistics. Further information on the different types of official statistic is available on the website of the UK Statistics Authority. The rationale to publish these statistics as official statistics is as follows:
- The Department has now been responsible for the production and publication of the statistics for four years and data quality has improved since 29 June 2018 following the statutory duty coming into effect on local authorities to notify the Panel of serious incidents.
- The Department considers these statistics to be an accurate account of the number of serious incidents that local authorities have notified to the Panel. However, whilst reporting has improved in recent years, the Department is aware that, in some instances, not all incidents that meet the definition for a serious incident are notified, particularly those relating to serious harm. See the ‘Data Quality’ section of the ‘Methodology page’ for further considerations when using the data.
- There is no intention to stop this series (user engagement has shown continued need for the data).