Over 3,000 children in West Sussex believed to be living under shadow of domestic abuse

The council chamber at County Hall, Chichester. Credit: LDRS

More than 3,000 children in West Sussex are believed to be living under the shadow of domestic abuse, a government report has revealed.

The figures were published  in a report about child vulnerability by Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, who warned much of the problem was hidden from sight due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Ms Longfield said:

“The coronavirus emergency has put hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children in England at heightened risk.

“While the government’s decision to keep schools open for the most vulnerable children is welcome, sadly most of them are just not showing up.

“They are most likely at home, often exposed to a cocktail of secondary risks.”

A spokesman said West Sussex County Council was working closely with police, schools and healthcare providers to help children in need and to support youngsters who were eligible to attend school during the crisis.

He added:

“We are jointly launching campaigns to support those at risk of domestic violence and to ask residents to report any child safeguarding concerns they have.”

The figures in the report relate to children who have been assessed by social services for one reason or another.

There were 3,180 cases where domestic abuse was a factor,  224 relating to children under the age of one and 59 assessments involving unborn children.

Almost 2,000 children are living with a parent or parents who have a drug or alcohol abuse problem, with 138 cases involving children under the age of one.

The report also said West Sussex had one of the highest proportions of children who have special educational needs and disabilities – but have not been given an Education, Health and Care Plan.

The 17,783 children who do not have a plan places the county in the 85th percentile, compared to the 4,031 children who do have a plan, placing the county in the 47th percentile.

Another 3,556 children were referred to social services in last year but did not meet the threshold for an assessment.

The spokesman said:

“Our partnership work to protect vulnerable children continues and remains our highest priority, especially at this time when we know some families are under increasing pressure.

“We have individually assessed the risk to every child with a social worker.

“Contact from social care is continuing, directly where it is still necessary and safe to do so and ‘virtually’ in other cases where this is appropriate, in line with the latest government guidance.”

(By Karen Dunn – Local Democracy Reporter)

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