50,000 vulnerable children at risk from ‘toxic trio’

Around 50,000 vulnerable children under the age of five are living in households with a "toxic trio" of domestic abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, and mental health problems.

A new report from the Children's Commissioner for England says these children are at a "very high risk of severe harm" and the three "toxic" factors were prevalent in cases of suspected abuse or neglect where children had been seriously harmed or died.

It also said around 160,000 young children were in homes with two of these issues.

It said extra funding for child protection was urgently needed and that many of those at the greatest risk could be unknown to social services.

The report, titled A Crying Shame, said there are about 15,800 babies considered by local authorities to be vulnerable or highly vulnerable and at risk of harm, but still living at home.

Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield said more funding was urgently needed.

"This important research shows hundreds of the most vulnerable young children are at risk of harm," she said.

"As children's services budgets come under increased pressure, we cannot just cross our fingers and hope for the best. Babies are too vulnerable and deserve better.

"The government has an opportunity in the budget and next year's spending review to make sure the funds are in place to ensure that they are properly protected."

The Local Government Association (LGA) echoed the call for a cash injection into children's services.

Councillor Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA's children and young people board said: "These worrying figures underline the huge number of children and families in need of help and support, and emphasises the colossal challenge facing councils and their partners as they try to address growing levels of need with rapidly diminishing resources.

"We are absolutely clear that unless new funding is found in the Autumn Budget, then these vital services, which keep children safe from harm and the worst abuses of society, will reach a tipping point."

A Government spokeswoman said it was vital children affected by mental health, alcoholism and domestic abuse receive the care and support they need.

More from Child Abuse Inquiry

She added: "We are working to tackle these issues through our landmark Domestic Abuse Bill to better protect and support victims, as well as reviewing the outcomes for children in need.

"We are also investing up to £270m in children's social care programmes to improve the lives of vulnerable children, we have pledged £8m to support children who are exposed to domestic abuse and £500,000 to expand helplines for children of alcoholics."

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