Part 1 (April to September) 2020-21

Serious incident notifications

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These figures provide transparency data on serious incidents involving children that local authorities have notified the Department about. This includes the number of notifiable incidents by:

  • age group;
  • gender;
  • ethnicity;
  • disability;
  • notification nature;
  • placement type; and
  • whether the child is known to other agencies or has a Child Protection Plan (CPP).

Notifiable incidents are those that involve death or serious harm to a child where abuse or neglect is known or suspected, and the deaths of looked after children, whether or not abuse or neglect is known or suspected.

The most recent data relates to the first half of the 2020-21 financial year.

Headline facts and figures - 2020-21

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The statutory guidance ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children (opens in a new tab)’ 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 if:

  • the child dies or is seriously harmed in the local authority’s area; or
  • 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.

Working Together to Safeguard Children, including the above notification criteria, was updated in July 2018. Prior to this (under statutory guidance Working Together 2015) local authorities were required to make notifications to Ofsted. This data continues the series previously published by Ofsted in their Serious incident notification from local authority children's services (opens in a new tab) Official Statistics. This new data is currently being published as transparency data (see Methodology section for information on data quality).

All data in this release is based on single notifiable incidents and the information is only about the first child identified in the notification. The characteristic information is as at the point of notification.

The data shows the number of incidents reported in the period, rather than the number of incidents that occurred in the period. We know that in some cases, there is a delay in the Department being notified. 

Child characteristics

The tables below provide the number and percentage of serious incident notifications since 2018-19 by the age, gender, ethnicity and disability of the child. The data shows that:

  • The total number of serious incident notifications during the first half of 2020-21 increased by 27% on the same period in 2019-20. This follows a decrease between 2018-19 and 2019-20.
  • The largest increases were seen amongst young children although those 16 years and over increased by a third.
  • The majority (54%) of incidents related to boys but girls saw the largest increased compared to 2019-20.
  • Almost two thirds of serious incident notifications in the first half of 2020-21 related to white children. This is similar to 2019-20 but down from 2018-19.
  • The proportion of incidents relating to children with a disability remained stable.

Nature of incidents

In the first half of 2020-21, incidents relating to child deaths increased from 89 to 119 and serious harm 132 to 153 compared to the same period in 2019-20.

Placement at time of incident

The majority of incidents (two thirds) occurred whilst living at home, however, there have been a slight increases in the proportion of incidents occurring elsewhere.

Children previously known to agencies

The proportion of incidents reported as relating to children with child protection plans was 8%. 86% of children were known to other agencies.

Care should be taken when interpreting these figures. Not all local authorities' management information systems allow for this information to be recorded. Also, local authorities must notify the Department of an incident within 5 working days, by which time whether the child has a child protection plan, or whether the child is known to other agencies, may not yet be known. The proportion is, therefore, likely to be an undercount.

Whether a child was “known to other agencies” is interpreted differently across local authorities and so these figures should be treated with caution. Some local authorities only include children known to Children's Social Care but in other cases can include agencies such as the police or babies under midwife care.

Help and support


Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics.

Ad hoc official statistics

Ad hoc official statistics are one off publications that have been produced as far as possible in line with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

Contact us

If you have a specific enquiry about Serious incident notifications statistics and data:

Children’s Services Statistics Team

Contact name: Louis Erritt

Press office

If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone: 020 7783 8300

Public enquiries

If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:

Telephone: 037 0000 2288

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Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays)