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On 4 July 2017, the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, published the report On Measuring the Number of Vulnerable Children in England. The Commissioner had instigated the report because she believed there were unidentified and “invisible” vulnerable children that were suffering a variety of harms and risks. In order to address the needs of vulnerable, she argued, people needed to know who the vulnerable were and how many there are. The report identified a total of 32 groups of children that were categorised as vulnerable, and provided estimated figures for the number of children in each group. Included among the report’s findings were:

  • 580,000 children who were directly supported or accommodated (or previously accommodated) by the state;
  • 370,000 children and young people whose actions put their futures at risk—for example, excluded pupils;
  • 2,300,000 children with health-related vulnerabilities—for example, Children with long-standing illness, disability or infirmity; and
  • 670,000 children with family-related vulnerabilities—such as children whose parents use substances problematically.

Since July 2017, the Commissioner has published two further briefings in relation to two of the vulnerable groups identified: children excluded from school, and children’s mental health. The reports found that:

  •  There were an estimated total of 805,950 children aged 5–17 with mental health disorders;
  • Between one-in-four and one-in-five children with a mental health condition had received helped last year;
  • In 2015/16, the estimated figure of excluded pupils was 173,810 across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools;
  • Children with Special Educational Needs accounted for half of all permanent exclusions, despite being 14 percent of the school population.

This briefing examines the findings contained in the Children’s Commissioner’s report on vulnerable children, and her follow-up reports on excluded children and children’s mental health. It also includes discussion of the Government’s recent green paper on children’s and young people’s mental health services


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