Thursday, 1 December 2011

Statistical Indigestion

It is a while since I looked at any British government statistics on child abuse and neglect. Today I was prompted by an article in Children and Young People Now to look up the Department for Education’s statistical release “Characteristics of Children in Need in England, 2010-11”.

Reading this document made me remember why I stopped reading this sort of stuff some years ago. To be fair to the document it is free of reports of the dire performance indicators that used to be so ubiquitous in the days of our last Government. But it is still packed with too much data, while any useful information is difficult to extract.

And trend information is completely absent. I cannot understand this omission. Surely what most people want to know is how many more or less children are being identified as being abused and neglected and where this is happening. And they want to know what the trend is over a considerable period (e.g. ten years). That way we would have some useful information for planning services and allocating resources. Perhaps that’s too much to hope for from a government department?

To me the most interesting statistic hidden in the pages of this report is the following:
“There were 382,400 children in need at 31 March 2011, which was a rate of 346.2 per 10,000 children. At a local authority level, the rate per 10,000 children varied from 171.3 children in need per 10,000 children in Wiltshire to 1272.4 in Haringey.” (page 2)
That puts identified need in the London Borough of Haringey ten times above the level in rural Wiltshire and nearly four times above the average for England. I wonder how far allocation of resources compensates for this disparity?