Child neglect figures: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

FOI reference: FOI/17/02785
Date received: 13 November 2017
Date responded: 5 December 2017

Information requested

You asked for "the most recent figures for child neglect in Scotland over a given period and also the figures for all previously recorded given periods."


The Scottish Government recognises that neglect is one of the most prevalent forms of child maltreatment faced by children in Scotland. The nature of neglect is such that it is often hidden, which means that it is difficult to estimate figures for how many children in Scotland suffer from neglect and are never involved with services who might be able to help support them and their families. Therefore, the figures that refer to neglect must be understood in that context. I have therefore provided you with links to two sources of statistical information that may be of help to you. You should note that the Scottish Government does not hold any figures for neglect beyond the sources of information provided to you in this email.

Children's Social Work Statistics

The Scottish Government publishes annual Children's Social Work Statistics. This is information collected from local authorities and secure units on children and young people, generally younger than their mid-twenties, who were formally looked after, under child protection measures, or in secure care at some point between August 2015 and July 2016. This is the most recent period for which we have collated information, and this was published on March 28, 2017. You can find these statistics here: Children's Social Work Statistics 2015-16

The Children's Social Work Statistics contains figures relating to neglect in Annex A, Table 4.5. This table 'Concerns identified at the case conferences of children who were on the child protection register at 31 July 2016, by local authority' provides a breakdown of the type of concern raised at a case conference, and one of the categories is neglect. You may wish to note that more than one concern can be raised for the same child. It is also worth noting that other concerns included on the table may also indicate that a child could be subject to neglect, but this might not be formally recorded as a separate concern at a case conference.

You asked for information on all previous years for which we hold figures for child neglect. Previous years Children's Social Work Statistics can be found here: Children's Social Work Statistics - historical data

The child protection data collected from 2012 onwards should not be compared to previous years' data on category of abuse/risk. The reason for this is that the categories of abuse used prior to 2012 related to the main category of abuse/risk for registrations on the child protection register. Subsequently the data gathered was concerns identified at the case conferences of children who were on the child protection register. The categories were changed in 2011-12 and replaced with the list of causes for concern, which are not compatible. Unlike the main category of abuse, more than one cause for concern can be recorded per child.

Scottish Children's Reporters Administration Official Statistics

You may also wish to look at the figures provided by the Scottish Children's Reporters Administration (SCRA). SCRA is a national body focused on children and young people most at risk, and works to support the operation of the Children's Hearings System in Scotland. As such, they collate and publish information on the reasons that children are referred to the Reporter. Please note that these figures are not published by the Scottish Government.

Their latest annual report can be found here, alongside links to previous years' statistics: SCRA Annual Report

SCRA's figures refer to the 'grounds for referral': these reasons (grounds) under which children are referred to the Reporter are those set out in section 67(2) of the Children (Scotland) Act 2011 and are given in full in Annex 1 of their publication.

Summary table 1b shows the numbers of children referred to the Children's Reporter, and the associated number of referrals in the year for each ground of referral. Ground a, 'Lack of parental care' is the ground most closely associated with neglect. The full ground is "[he]/[she] is likely to suffer unnecessarily or [his]/[her] health or development is likely to be seriously impaired, due to a lack of parental care."

Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

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Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
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