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Children in Need



If services are working well, the majority of children in Bedford Borough will be supported through universal services.  Those that need additional input will be supported through a range of early help services.  Where there are more complex needs, help may be provided under Section 17 Children Act (children in need) and where there are child protection concerns (reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm) local authorities must make enquiries and decide if any action must be taken under Section 47 Children Act 1989.


Under Section 17 (10) of the Children Act 1989, a child is a ‘Child in Need’ if:


  • He/she is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him/her of services by a local authority;
  • His/her health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision for him/her of such services; or
  • He/she is a Disabled Child.


The Marmot Review of Health Inequalities (Marmot, 2010) highlighted a real challenge to improving the health and wellbeing of children and young people: there is a social gradient in health, meaning the lower the social position, the poorer the health outcomes. This gradient in health outcomes is much steeper than it need be and takes effect from a very early age. Such health inequalities arise not only from family income or the quality of health services, but also from the wider social determinants of health, including: educational attainment, early childhood development and environmental factors like poor housing and a lack of access to green space.


Providing effective early help is more effective in promoting the welfare of children than reacting later (Working Together 2013:11).  However, some children will require intervention from Children’s Services.  Where concerns about a child are satisfactorily addressed, support might be stepped down to universal or targeted services.  If the concern persists it may be necessary for the local authority to act to safeguard the child, including considering whether legal action is required.

What do we know?

Facts, Figures, Trends

1.    Initial Activities

a)    Contacts

During 2013-14 there were 7,541 contacts received by children’s social care teams, this represents a decrease of 8% when compared to 2012-13.  A contact is information about a child that is living in our area. 

Many children about whom there is a contact are best supported by universal or targeted services.  However, for some children the level of concern or complexity of need requires more specialist social work intervention.  If the concerns are such that Social Care intervention is necessary, the contact is treated as a referral.


Figure 1:  Contacts:



a)     Contacts by source

During 2013-14 a significant amount of Contacts were received from Bedfordshire Police (46.4%), this is roughly in-line with previous years.  There has been a slight increase in the percentage of Contacts received Education, Family & Friends and Health which indicates improved data quality.

Figure 2:  Contacts by source:



a)    Contacts by reason

During 2013-14 a significant amount of Contacts were received for Child Care Concerns (52.5%), this represents a decrease compared to 2012/13.  Contacts for Domestic Violence have decreased to 29.6%; and CAF Contacts have decrease year on year and are 52% down over the 3 year reporting period.  It is anticipated that use of the CAF will increase when the revised Early Help Strategy is implemented.

Figure 3:  Contacts by reason:



2.  Referrals

Figure 4:  Referrals



During 2013-14 there were 1,231 referrals received by children’s social care teams, this represents a decrease of 17% compared to 2012-13.  Most children who are referred to Social Care will be subject of a Single Assessment.  


3. Assessments

There were 1,026 assessments completed by children’s social care teams during 2013/14. Following the adoption of the Continuous Single Assessment in 2013-14 the resultant data does not align with the previous Single/Core Assessment model and is not therefore comparable. The expectations of a Single Assessment are set out in Working Together (2013).  The following graph is for contextual rather than comparable purposes.

Figure 5:  Assessments



4.  Children in Need

a)    Children in Need

Whilst the volume of Contact and Referral activity has decreased during 2013-14 the actual number of children in need at 31st March 2014 represented a 7% increase compared to the previous year.

Figure 6.: Children in Need



b)    Children in Need with a Disability

Numbers of children in need recorded as having a disability have decreased over the previous three years.  This may in part be due to a recording issue on the children’s social care database. 

Figure 7: Children in Need with a Disability:




c)   Gender of Children in Need

The gender of children in need has roughly remained the same over the past three years with males being the slight majority in receipt of child in need services. 

Figure 8: Gender of Children in Need:



d)    Ethnicity of Children in Need

The ethnicity of children in need has shown a reduction in White British children from 66.5% in 2011-12 to 54.8% in 2013-14. It is likely that this is due to data quality as there has been a corresponding rise in the ‘Other’ category. Elsewhere, the previous three years has not shown significant change in the Asian, Black and Mixed groupings.

Figure 9:: Ethnicity of Children in Need


5.   Child Protection

a)    Section 47 investigations

Where there is child protection concern, a social worker will undertake enquiries under Section 47 children Act 1989.  During 2013-14 there were 345 Section 47 enquiries undertaken by children’s social care teams, representing a decrease of 3% compared to 2012-13.  This total is however 25% higher than the number of Section 47s in 2011-12 when there were 276.

Figure 10: Section 47 investigations




b)    Initial Child Protection Conferences (ICPCs)

If child protection enquiries identify that there is risk to a child that requires management through the multi-agency child protection process, an Initial Child Protection Conference will be convened.  During 2013-14 there were 228 Initial Child Protection Conferences (ICPCs) held, this represents an increase of 18% compared to 2012-13 and a 33% increase since 2011-12.  This follows a similar pattern to Section 47s.


Figure 11:  Initial Child Protection Conferences:


c)    Number of Child Protection Plans

Following the increases to S47 Investigations and Initial Child Protection Conferences there was a 53% increase in the number of Children Subject to a Child Protection Plan. Following a dip in 2012/13, the outturn for 2013/14 is also 9% higher than 2011/12.

Figure 12:  Child Protection Plans:



National & Local Strategies (Current best practices)


Children’s’ Services are currently developing services in line with recommendations from the Munro Review (DfES, 2011)  and guidance issued in the Working Together statutory guidance (DfES, 2013).   Key principles are improved working together to provide help at an earlier stage in a child’s journey through services and shortening that journey.

A Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub was established in Bedford in February 2014.  This has operated with partners on a virtual basis for the last year and from February 2015 representatives from the local authority, police and health will be co-located to ensure a more robust first point of contact.  There are also proposals for a Pan Bedfordshire MASH and an independent review is currently taking place. 

The Early Help Strategy and offer will ensure greater support to children who do not require intervention from Social Care.  

A review of thresholds with partner agencies will ensure a greater understanding of appropriate interventions with children and their families.

There are concerns about Child Sexual Exploitation in Bedfordshire and a Pan Bedfordshire review has been commissioned.


What are the key inequalities?


There has been an increase in number of contacts made to Children’s Services but the overall number of children requiring statutory support through child in need and child protection plans has not increased at the same level.  This suggests that thresholds for social care intervention are not clear and might indicate that there is insufficient support available providing early help to children and families.

The biggest concern remains domestic violence, with most contacts being received through the police. 

Within Children’s Social Care there is a need for more consultation with children and their families to seek their views about the service that is provided to them.


What are the unmet needs/ service gaps?


  • There are significant numbers of repeated contacts about domestic violence.
  • There is an increase in the identification of Child Sexual Exploitation in Bedford Borough.  Appropriate support and provision is not always easy to identify.
  • More work is needed to evidence that children are receiving the support they need in a timely manner


Recommendations for consideration by organisations i.e. BCCG, General Practices, Local Authority, Public Health and other providers e.g. SEPT, Bedford hospital


  • Improve multi-agency response to domestic abuse.
  • Improve multi-agency response to children who go missing from home.


This section links to the following sections in the JSNA:




The Marmot Review (2010) Fair Society, Healthy Lives: Strategic review of health inequalities in England post-2010.  Available at: 


The Munro Review of Child Protection: final report, A child centred system (2011), Department for Education, The Stationery Office.  Available at: http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm80/8062/8062.pdf


Working Together to Safeguard Children (2013), Department for Education.  Available at:  http://www.education.gov.uk/aboutdfe/statutory/g00213160/working-together-to-safeguard-children


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