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The Children’s Commissioner’s 2019 childhood vulnerability report examines the latest scale of, and trends over time in, rates of childhood vulnerability. As with last year, we have estimated the total number of children in England currently receiving statutory support or intervention (those who are ‘in the system’). Based on the latest available data, we believe this to be 723,000 children – slightly higher than last year’s figure of 710,000. We estimate that 2.3 million children are living with risk because of a vulnerable family background.

Within this group, we estimate that more than a third – 829,000 children – are ‘invisible’ (in the sense of not being known to services) and therefore not getting any support. Another 761,000 children – around a third – are known to services, but their level of support is unclear. Adding these two groups together, means that there are 1.6 million children from a vulnerable family background for whom the support is either patchy or non-existent.

Just over half of these children are ‘invisible’ to services.  The remaining 669,000 children – around 3 in 10 of the 2.3 million – are currently being helped through a formal, national programme of support. Some of this is through the Troubled Families programme, while the rest is through various forms of children’s social care. Around 128,000 children from a vulnerable family background are receiving the most intensive forms of statutory support, such as being in care or on a child protection plan.

Key statistics

children growing up with a vulnerable family background
children in families with complex needs for which there is no national established, recognised form of support
children are ‘invisible’ to services
of the amount councils spend on children now goes on the 1.1% of children who need acute and specialist services