Where a child is deemed to be at continuing risk of significant harm or impairment of their health and development, a decision is made to introduce a Child Protection Plan (Box 1). Reasons for the introduction of the Child Protection Plans in place in Hackney as of 31 March 2015 were categorised as:

  • emotional abuse (47%)
  • neglect (36%)
  • physical abuse (10%)
  • sexual abuse (4%)
  • multiple reasons (3%).

A report by WAVE Trust, which tackles family issues, produced in collaboration with the Department for Education, lists a number of factors that may hamper children’s development and, therefore, make them vulnerable. These factors include child abuse (Box 1), exposure to domestic violence (Box 1),A parental drug dependence and parental alcohol misuse. 1

The children of parents or carers who are dependent on drugs or alcohol are more likely to develop behaviour problems, experience low educational attainment, and be vulnerable to developing substance misuse problems themselves. 2

Box 1: Definitions used in this section

Child Protection Plan – a plan drawn up by the local authority if a multi-agency Child Protection Conference deems a child to be at continuing risk of significant harm or impairment of their health and development, which sets out how the child can be kept safe. 3

Domestic violence – the cross-government definition is as follows:4 any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. This encompasses, but is not limited to, psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.

 Child abuse includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and neglect. 5

Female genital mutilation (FGM) – includes any procedure involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or any other injury to the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. 6  There are four types: 7

1.    partial or total removal of clitoris and/or prepuce (clitoral hood) (clitoridectomy)

2.    partial or total removal of clitoris and labia minora (inner folds) (excision)

3.    narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal (infibulation)

4.    all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterisation.


Being a young carer also increases the risk of vulnerability. A 2012 joint report on young carers produced by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services  (ADASS), the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) and The Children’s Society stated that: 8

‘A young carer becomes vulnerable when the level of care-giving and responsibility to the person in need of care becomes excessive or inappropriate for that child, risking impacting on his or her emotional or physical well-being or educational achievement and life chances.’

 The Children’s Society, using data from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE), reports that, in comparison to their peers, young carers are: 9

  • 5 times more likely than other young people to have a special educational need or disability themselves
  • 5 times more likely to be from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) community
  • twice as likely to not speak English as their first language.

Data from the LSYPE also reveal that, on average, young carers achieve the equivalent of nine educational grades lower overall than their peers.B Data from the Audit Commission demonstrate that young carers are twice as likely to be not in education, employment or training (NEET) for six months or more in comparison to the wider population. 10

According to the Children and Families Act 2014, ‘a child or young person has special educational needs if he or she has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her’. 11 A learning difficulty or disability is present in a child of school age if they have ‘a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age’ or ‘a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions’.

Children with special educational needs require greater support to reach their potential than non-affected children, not only because of the disabilities they have, but also because they are more likely to have other risk factors that are associated with poorer education outcomes – such as living in deprived circumstances.

Not only does raising a disabled children cost, on average, an additional £99 per week, but families supporting a disabled child are 2.5 times more likely to have no parent working for more than 16 hours per week. 12 13 In 2011, The Children’s Society reported that 40% of disabled children were living in poverty, compared to a national average of 30%. Furthermore, 14% of disabled children were living in severe income poverty (where household income is less than 40% of the medianC income) in 2011, in comparison to 11% of all children. 14


  1. The term ‘domestic violence’ only relates to those aged 16 or over, with violence to children being known as ‘child abuse’. However, witnessing domestic violence (for instance, between parents) is a risk factor for child abuse and a cause of vulnerability in itself.
  2. For instance, achieving nine C grades rather than nine B grades at GCSE
  3. The median income is the value higher than the lowest 50% of incomes and lower than the highest 50% of incomes.


  1. “Conception to age 2 – the age of opportunity,” WAVE Trust; Department for Education, 2013
  2. “Drugs and alcohol: Healthcare professionals and partners,” Public Health England, [Online]. Available: http://www.nta.nhs.uk/families.aspx. [Accessed June 2016]
  3. “Child abuse – Child Protection Plans,” Citizens Advice, 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/relationships/children-and-young-people/child-abuse/local-authority-involvement/child-abuse-child-protection-plans/. [Accessed July 2016]
  4. Domestic violence and abuse,” Gov.uk, 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/domestic-violence-and-abuse. [Accessed July 2016]
  5. “Report child abuse,” Gov.uk, 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.gov.uk/report-child-abuse. [Accessed July 2016]
  6. “Female Genital Mutilation: the facts,” Home Office, 2015
  7. “Classification of female genital mutilation,” World Health Organization, 2016. [Online]. Available: http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/overview/en/. [Accessed Jult 2016]
  8. “Working together to support young carers and their families,” ADASS, ADCS, The Children’s Society, 2012
  9. D. Hounsell, “Hidden from view: The experiences of young carers in England,” The Children’s Society, 2013
  10. “Against the odds: Re-engaging young people in education, employment or training,” Audit Commission, 2010
  11. “Children and Families Act,” 2014.
  12. “Supporting disabled children and their families,” Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1999
  13. E. Emerson and C. Hatton, “The socio-economic circumstances of families supporting a child at risk of disability in Britain in 2002,” Lancaster University, Institute for Health Research, 2005
  14. “Four in every 10: disabled children living in poverty,” The Children’s Society, 2011