Facts 2018-06-29T08:46:39+00:00

Knowing the facts is the first step to making a difference.

Looked-after Children’s outcomes

Looked-after Children want to go onto further and higher education, it is the inadequacies of the care system that deprive them of the support to transform those hopes into reality. Policy, guidance and recent changes to legislation seek to ensure care leavers have the resources and support needed to successfully transition to adulthood.  However, by year 3 three-quarters of Looked-after Children are falling behind their peers academically and, unfortunately, many Looked-after Children are never assessed for special educational needs because of the lack of school stability. By the time they reach year 11 / 12 Looked-after Children are often lacking the basic literacy skills for higher education admissions and employment[1].

Looked-after Children achieve below average outcomes at GCSE with 17.5% achieving the basics (A*- C or above in English and mathematics) compared to 58.8% of all pupils and 2.7% of Looked-after Children achieving the English Baccalaureate compared to 22.9% of all pupils[2].   The reasons for these levels of underachievement can be understood in terms of instability in schooling and placements, with teenagers facing a 50% risk of a foster placement breakdown during any 12-month period.  Thus 38.6% of Looked-after Children who experience one placement achieve 5+ A*- C GCSEs (grade 5 or above) compared to 29.8% who experience two placements, falling to 14.5% who experience 3 or more placements[3].

Looked-after Children experience higher levels of school exclusion than their peers because schools do not necessarily have the capacity to support young people affected by trauma, and these young people do not have enough adults to effectively advocate for them in such circumstances. Looked-after Children are three times more likely than their peers to be expelled from their schools and one-third of all children and young people in contact with the criminal justice system have been in care.  11.1% of the Looked-after population (age 13) are involved with the criminal justice system compared to 2.7% of the general 13-year-old population[4].

There is no single solution or formula that will work for all of our Looked-after Children; however, the First Star Academies offer an innovative and holistic model that emphasises and supports education while promoting meaningful connections as our young people transition into adulthood.

[1]DfE, SFR 12/2017, 23 March 2017 Outcomes for children looked after by local authorities in England, 31 March 2016

[2]Harrison, N. (2017) MOVING ON UP: Pathways of care leavers and care-experienced students into and through higher education. University of West of England, Bristol

[3]DfE, Data Pack, improving permanence for looked after children, September 2013

[4]Bentley et al., 2018. How safe are our children?  The most comprehensive overview of child protection in the UK.  London: NSPCC.

Estimated Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect

Key facts 

  • The average economic lifetime costs per individual for a Looked-after Child is estimated at £89,390 (Conti et al., 2017)[1];
  • The estimated economic lifetime cost for the current cohort of 94,000 Looked-after Children in the UK is £8,401,660,000;
  • The estimated annual cost of child sexual abuse in the UK is between £2.5 billion and £41.2 billion[2];
  • The annual cost of children’s services for Looked-after Children in England is approximately £4 billion[3];
  • There is a positive link between child maltreatment and alcohol abuse – alcohol abuse costs the UK £11.9 billion per annum (2001) with 9,114,371 individuals misusing alcohol in the same year – the impact on the economy includes missed work days and health costs;
  • There is a positive link between child maltreatment and smoking in later life (33,420 in their early 50s);
  • The criminal justice system has a role to play with Conti et al., (NSPCC, 2017) estimating new case costs for 2015 (child maltreatment cases) at £267,148,144.

(Conti et al., 2017. P 33)

Kelly et al., (2018) estimate that the overall spending on children’s services in England was approximately £8.6 billion in 2016– 17.  It is significant that one of the biggest areas of spending is provision for Looked-after Children (approximately £4 billion).  Other areas of significant spend include Safeguarding and Family Support (approximately £3.3 billion).  Provision for Looked-after Children has increased as the numbers of children in care has risen (approximately 18% since 2008), while policy and legislative changes have generated what Kelly et al. (2018, p 35) describe as ‘high-cost, responsive and statutory duties’ to support Looked-after Children.

In line with other fiscal constraints, local authority spending on children’s services has fallen over the last 7-8 years. Contributing factors to this decrease include fewer maintained schools[4]

The economic cost of child maltreatment is examined by NSPCC in the UKs first study to estimate the lifetime cost of child abuse and neglect (child maltreatment is the term used by Conti et al., 2017, to encompass all descriptors of abuse and harm used by a range of organisations and agencies – including sexual; physical; neglect; emotional).  The authors estimate that the average lifetime cost of non-fatal child maltreatment by a primary care givers is £89,390 with costs rising as high as £145,508 per individual in some cases. HOWEVER, many factors remain unmeasurable and often estimates of economic impact are used. In addition, this report focuses on abuse by primary care givers and does not include other causes of abuse. Lifetime costs per abused person are analysed for several cost elements that can be measured across all victims.  Costs are estimated assuming abuse commences at age 6 – the average age the Department for Education (2016) estimates that child abuse starts.

The costs are driven by social care costs, health-related costs and the high probability of the child abuse impacting employment prospects.  The main findings of this NSPCC report are that childhood maltreatment, especially physical and sexual abuse, is associated with a higher risk of a number of health problems, both physical and mental, lower educational attainment, cognitive decline and lower enjoyment of close relationships with other people. The report is clear that it does NOT take into account the unquantifiable emotional costs of abuse, indeed such factors can not readily be economically evaluated even when recognised.

The NSPCC report (Conti et al., 2017) suggests the economic effects of child abuse can be analysed in five lifetime categories:

  • Physical and health problems;
  • Mental health problems;
  • Healthy behaviours;
  • Labour market outcomes;
  • Welfare use.

Other studies focus on the cost of child sexual abuse to society, and their outcomes both expand on and overlap the NSPCC report (Conti et al., 2017) and DfE (2017) data.  Both long and short-term impacts are considered in the NSPCC study by Saied-Tessier (2014).  These include:

  • Health – Child mental health (depression only), child suicide and self-harm, adult mental health (depression and post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), adult physical health (from alcohol and drug misuse);
  • Criminal Justice System (CJS) – criminal justice system costs incurred because of the perpetrator of child sexual abuse, criminal justice system costs incurred because of the former victims of CSA (both juveniles and adults);
  • Services for Children – children social care and NSPCC service costs;
  • Lost productivity to society – from unemployment and reduced earnings as a result of being a victim of child sexual abuse.

(Saied-Tessier, 2014, p 9).

Saied-Tessier(2014)  notes that the number of child and adult victims of child sexual abuse can never be truly known but adopts data presented in other literature including Radford et al. (2011) who indicate that over 24% of 18 – 24 year olds (2011) report having been sexually abused as a child.  Further national estimates suggest between 2.2 and 4.6 million adults and 146, 00 and 479,00 children are victims of child sexual abuse (Saied-Tessier, 2014).

Consequently, it is estimated that child sexual abuse costs £182 million annual spending on health; approximately £150 million is spent on the criminal justice system each year and that about £100m million is spent on children’s social care services.  Significant long term economic costs to the UK are accounted for in lost productivity among adults who have been victims of child sexual abuse and Saied-Tessier (2014) conservatively estimates that the annual economic cost of child sexual abuse in the UK is between £1.6 and £3.2 billion.  Saeid-Tessier (2014) also estimates that the emotional costs (often and mostly born by the victims) fall between £0.9 billion and £38 billion.  The overall costs to the UK through lost productivity, health, mental health, criminal justice system and children’s services is a staggering £2.5 to £41.2 billion annually.

A Shared thought

from James A Mercy, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, USA

“imagine a childhood disease that effects one in five girls and one in seven boys before they reach the age of eighteen; a disease that can cause erratic behaviour and even severe conduct disorder among those exposed; a disease that can have profound implications for an individual’s future health by increasing the risk of substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and suicidal behaviour, a disease that replicates itself by causing some of its victims to expose future generations to its debilitating effects”

(cited by Saied-Tessier, 2014, p24)

Wouldn’t we do something to support those affected, provide services and undertake intensive research to protect children against such a disease.

[1]Conti, G, Morris, S., Melnychuk, M., & Pizzo, E.  (2017) the economic cost of child maltreatment in the UK: a preliminary study. London: NSPCC

[2]Saied-Tessier, A. 2014.  Estimating the costs of child sexual abuse in the UK. London: NSPCC

[3]Kelly, E., Lees T., Sibieta, L. & Waters, T. 2018 Public Spending on Children in England: 2000 to 2020.  Institute for Fiscal Studies. Children’s Commissioner June 2018

[4]DfE, SFR71/2017, 14 December 2017.  Expenditure by Local Authorities and Schools on Education, Children and Young People’s Services in England, 2016-17

Child Abuse and Neglect Statistics  (compiled June 2018)

Although the U.K. is ranked fifth in gross domestic product globally[1], it is:

  • ranked 24thout of 29 among developed nations for well-being of children in education[2];
  • ranked in the bottom third of developed nations for infant mortality rates;
  • ranked 29thout of 29 for participation in further education (among the world’s richest nations)[3].

How many children are abused and neglected in the U.K.?

  • In 2017, 58,000 children were identified as needing protection from abuse in the UK[4];
  • Offences of cruelty and neglect against children under 16 years have risen by 134.6% since 2012;
  • The proportion of children becoming the subject of a Child Protection Plan (England) or placed on a Child Protection Register (Home Countries) for reasons of neglect is steadily increasing;
  • In Wales the number of children on CPR for emotional abuse is increasing while sexual and physical abuse cases have declined;
  • In NI the numbers of children who are the subject of CPR for physical abuse has increased and this is now the most common reason for children to be on the CPR (NI);
  • In the UK in 2016/17 there were 15,204 recorded offences of cruelty and neglect against children under 16 years (England – 13,591; Wales – 426; NI -395; Scotland – 792);
  • Only Scotland has seen a decrease in offences over the last five years (down by 51%);
  • In 2016/17 there was a 4% increase in referrals to social services (10.2% in NI);
  • In England 571,000 children were referred to social services in 2016/17;
  • The number of children becoming the subject of child protection plans (England) or child protection registers (Wales; NI; Scotland) has increased by about 126% since 2002.

What type of maltreatment do children suffer[5]?

  • In 2016 / 17 there were 43,522 recorded sexual offences against U16 year old;
  • In 2016/17 there were 54,846 recorded sexual offences against children U18 years;
  • 11.3% of 18-24-year olds reported they had experienced contact sexual abuse when U18 years;
  • Abuse of a position of trust offences increased by 212% between 2016/16 and 2016/17*;
  • Sexual activity involving a child under 13 years increased by 301% between 2016/16 and 2016/17*;
  • Sexual grooming increased by 16.8 % between 2016/16 and 2016/17;
  • 23.7% of 18-24-year olds reported that they had been exposed to domestic violence while U18 years;
  • 64.1% of 18-24-year olds reported that they had been subject to physical abuse while U18 years of age;
  • 16,590 cases of rape and sexual assault of a child under 13 years occurred in 2016/17;
  • Almost 22% of young people aged 11-17 years reported maltreatment by a parent / guardian;
  • 60% of 11-17-year olds reported being the victim of peer on peer abuse;
  • 29% of 12-15-year olds reported seeing things they found worrying or nasty online;
  • Almost 1 in 4 young people experienced being sent upsetting content online;
  • 23.6% of young people experienced an adult they did not know in real life trying to contact them over an internet site or app or through a game;
  • 52.3% of 16-18-year-old girls had had a request for sexual images or messages;
  • 10% of girls and 5% of boys under the age of 13 had been asked to send sexual images or messages.

*it is generally recognised that reporting has improved and awareness increased, contributing to these, often dramatic, rises in reported cases.

How many children in the U.K. died from abuse and neglect? 

  • 91 homicides of U18s were recorded in 2016/17 – a rate of 7.7 per million children. This is higher than previous years due to the inclusion of those killed in the Hillsborough disaster (deaths found to be unlawful in 2016);
  • In England there were 53 deaths of children aged 1 month to 14 years in 2016 reflecting the downward trend since 1985;
  • There were 115 deaths (England) determined to be suicide and 28 deaths of undetermined nature among 15-19-year olds (2016/17).

What happens to care leavers?[6]

  • 40% of care leavers aged 19-21 were not in employment or training (NEET) compared to 16% of the general population;
  • 10% of care leavers aged 19-21 were living in semi-independent transitional accommodation (2016/17)[7];
  • 74% of Local Authority housing schemes give preference to care leavers;
  • 13% of care leavers said they were unable to rent private accommodation because the landlord was unwilling to accommodate them;
  • 57% of care leavers feel unsafe in their accommodation when they first leave care;
  • 42% of care leavers feel ready to live independently when they leave care;
  • Many care leavers don’t engage with the life skills needed to live independently, not realising how important these are until after they leave care – 44% felt the main professional supporting them leave care had been helpful;[8]
  • 44% of care leavers said the housing benefit was insufficient to pay the rent and that it often went straight to the landlord so they didn’t know how much benefit they were getting;
  • Nearly 20% of care leavers felt that they had no one to turn to for help;
  • The Children and Social Work Act (2017) now gives care leavers a personal advisor until they are 25;
  • Over 30% of care leavers misuse alcohol or other drugs within a year of leaving care;
  • Many care leavers feel alone and experience loneliness, depression, anxiety and poor emotional health and well-being;
  • The government report into sexual exploitation in gangs and groups found that 21% of identified victims were in the care system;
  • In 2013, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) appointed a National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Care Leaver Champion.


[2]UNICEF Office of research, Child well-being in rich countries. A comparative overview. Innocenti Report Card 11

[3]UNICEF Office of research, Child well-being in rich countries. A comparative overview. Innocenti Report Card 11

[4]NSPCC, 2018, child protection plan and register statistics: UK 2013-2017

[5]Bentley et al., 2018. How safe are our children?  The most comprehensive overview of child protection in the UK.  London: NSPCC

[6]Kelly, E., Lees T., Sibieta, L. & Waters, T. 2018 Public Spending on Children in England: 2000 to 2020.  Institute for Fiscal Studies. Children’s Commissioner June 2018.

[7]Gill, A., & Daw, E., 2017. From care to where? Care leavers’ access to accommodation. Centrepoint Policy Report.

[8]Department of Children and Families, July 2016. Keep on caring. Supporting Young People from Care to Independence. www.gov.uk/government/publications