Vulnerable children

Shining a light on the extent and impact of child vulnerability in England, focusing in particular on children with undiagnosed mental health issues, those excluded from mainstream education and children in gangs

Since 2017 we have published our annual childhood vulnerability framework. It attempts to measure the number of vulnerable children in England by mapping the full range of difficulties a child might be living with, from physical or mental illness, to going hungry; being homeless or excluded from school; being at risk of neglect; or living with parents with health problems.

'Invisible' children

Our annual childhood vulnerability framework attempts to measure the number of vulnerable children in England by mapping the full range of difficulties a child might be living with, from physical or mental illness, to going hungry; being homeless or excluded from school; being at risk of neglect; or living with parents with health problems.

Our latest vulnerability report, published in 2019, told us about the numbers of children who are growing up in England with vulnerability and risks that could affect their lives, wellbeing and life chances.

We found that there are over 2 million children in England living in families with substantial complex needs, and that of these 1.6 million children have no established, recognised form of additional support. In addition there are multiple other forms of vulnerability, risk and need. We show the latest data on 70 aggregate groups that we will use to monitor trends, consider aggregate levels of need and frame our work to hear the views of children and young people.

What we spend on children

We know from our vulnerability work that the number of children needing the state to intervene in their lives is rising, driving up the costs of statutory children’s social care services. Through the years of ‘austerity’, councils have worked hard to protect this spending – as they should. In 2018, we published work we commissioned the Institute of Fiscal Studies to carry out looking at what governments have spent on children from 2000 to 2020. As the Government begins its work on next year’s Spending Review, now is the time to debate the shape of public spending on children. What we spend, on who, and when is even more challenging in an era of austerity, and children do not have votes and voices to influence these debates.

Children’s mental health

We hear from children all the time who tell us they are having difficulties accessing mental health services, with referrals only made when a child is at crisis point. They also talk about the lack of information available for them online; a sign of a service not designed around user needs. We are continuing  our work to drive transparency in terms of NHS spending and provision for children and advocate for children’s mental health to be a priority locally and nationally.

Off-rolling from schools

There are tens of thousands of children in England receiving no school education. Many of them are ‘off-grid’, invisible to local authorities. The Children’s Commissioner is calling for a compulsory home education register, stronger measures to tackle ‘off-rolling’, more support for families who home educate, a greater oversight of home schooled children and decisive action against unregistered schools.

Voices of children reports

Talking with children is at the heart of our work and we have published a range of studies shining a light on the experiences of children.