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It is helpful, in thinking about child abuse and neglect, to recognise that there is a spectrum in terms of type and severity, ranging from lax parenting attitudes and carelessness at one end (contributing to neglect and childhood accidents) to children who are suffering extreme harm as a result of severe, persistent or malicious abuse at the other.

In Britain, at least 1 child per 1000 under 4 years of age per year suffers severe physical abuse; for example, fractures, brain haemorrhage, severe internal injuries or mutilation. An estimated one to two children die each week in England and Wales as a result of abuse or neglect.

The pyramid of severity of child abuse and neglect


    • In 2012, there were 42,900 (38 per 10,000) children subject to a child protection plan in England13

    • Neglect accounted for 42% of child protection plans

    • Children in the youngest age groups (aged 0 to 4) were assessed to be most in need of protection

    • Infants under 1 year had the highest rate of registration (70 per 10,000 in England); the next highest was in the 1 to 4 year age group (50 per 10,000).

Children subject to a child protection plan in England at 31 March 201213​ (data used with permission of the Department for Education)


These figures represent those children identified as having been abused or neglected and in whom ongoing risk warrants professional involvement, but underestimate the true prevalence of child maltreatmen​t.60 It is recognised that most cases of abuse and neglect do not come to the notice of professionals and, as a result, children continue to suffer harm.

Numbers of children in need, children who are looked after, and children subject to a child protection plan in England, and the relationship between them (data from various sources reproduced with permission of the Department for Education)