Scoping review to draw together data on safeguarding children and compare the position of England wi...
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Scoping review to draw together data on safeguarding children and compare the position of England with that in other countries. Emily Munro and Esme Manful Child Wellbeing Research Centre. Completed work.

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Emily Munro and Esme Manful Child Wellbeing Research Centre

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Scoping review to draw together data on safeguarding children and compare the position of England with that in other countries

Emily Munro and Esme Manful

Child Wellbeing Research Centre

Completed work

Brief study to scope existing international data on safeguarding children from physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and exposure to intimate partner violence and from child death and injury

  • Focus on availability, comparability and preliminary interpretation of data

  • No data collated and published at an international level on prevalence of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect in industrialised countries

Findings: definitions of abuse

  • Different definitions will result in different rates of identification and in the relative numbers and percentages identified as suffering each abuse type

  • In some countries (including Denmark, Finland and Norway) physical punishment is banned

  • Variations in precision of definitions (Canada comprehensive and detailed definitions and efforts to ensure inter-rater reliability)

  • Greater international consensus re: definitions of physical abuse and sexual abuse – therefore scope to explore reasons for variations

  • Emotional abuse, neglect and intimate partner violence more problematic – definitional ambiguity

Data included in national statistical returns

  • Data collected and published influenced by ideology and systems and processes

  • Differences between what is collected and what is published/in the public domain

  • Different approaches to safeguarding and these influence the data that are collected and its comparability

Availability of data: an overview

  • Child safety approach (Australia, Canada, USA)

  • Data primarily on child protection cases

  • Mandatory reporting requirements

  • Investigations focus on substantiation of abuse

  • Data are collected on substantiated cases but not on children in need

Availability of data: an overview

  • Child welfare approach (England, Finland, Norway and Denmark)

  • Data collected on referrals includes requests for services

  • Assessments focused on ascertaining need and determining the appropriate service response rather than substantiation

  • Difficulties disaggregating data on services for children with lower levels of need vs child protection

Availability of data: an overview

  • Referrals - majority of countries collect data on the source of referrals and child attributes

  • Denmark and Finland do not publish data on abuse type

  • Norway collects more data on issues affecting parenting capacity and service responses

  • England collects more data on LAC than other countries

Comparability of data

  • Importance of determining whether comparing like for like

  • E.g. Referral data may be presented on: all cases received (England, USA, some Australian territories); cases requiring further assessment (following screening) (USA, some Australian territories, Norway); cases that are substantiated and progress further

  • England and Finland have a two-tier assessment process and in-depth assessment rates per 1000 are not dissimilar (12.6 per 1000 children in England and 13.7 in Finland)

Comparability of data

Range of factors influence what comes to the attention of children’s social care :

  • Legal and policy frameworks

  • Mandatory reporting expectations and thresholds

  • Professional and public knowledge and understanding of thresholds

  • Media reporting and cultural attitudes

  • Economic climate

  • Levels of need


  • Data readily available and has the potential to assist with cross-national comparisons BUT

  • Considerable variation in what is collected at key stages in child protection processes

  • Differences in legal and policy frameworks and definitions mean that there are challenges in making valid comparisons; easy to draw erroneous conclusions

  • Qualitative data and input from experts from sample countries important

Current study: exploring trends over time

  • The overarching aim of the study is to scope and draw together existing international data on safeguarding children and compare the position of England with that of other countries. The objective is to consider how different institutional and cultural approaches alongside different forms of provision and support may influence rates of abuse and neglect and the responses of public authorities.

Aims and objectives

  • Offer analyse and interpretation of the aggregate administrative data available in England, Norway, Australia, US and New Zealand to explore changes in the recognition of, and responses to, abuse and neglect since 2000;

  • Map changes in responses to children coming to the attention of child welfare agencies against significant events and key policy and practice developments;

  • Examine the strengths and limitations of relying on administrative datasets for international comparison

Current status

  • Ongoing work

  • Established an international expert working group of academics and data experts in each country to reflect on data to assist in understanding changes in rates of referral, assessment and abuse substantiation with reference to

  • a) changes in recording practices and

  • b) significant events (e.g. child death tragedies, implementation of key policies) which may influence changes

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