How safe are our children? 2020

Last updated: 22 Mar 2022 Topics: Online safety Inappropriate or concerning behaviour Research Duty of care

This annual report from the NSPCC compiles and analyses the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across the 4 nations in the UK.

The report sets out different indicators. Each indicator looks at the question of 'how safe are our children?' from a different perspective. They also include historic data, to help track progress over time.

This year’s report sets out what the available data tells us about the current child protection landscape, and takes a closer look at how adolescence have been affected by the pandemic, by lockdown or by the uncertainties that we have been living through. 

Authors: Holly Bentley, Andy Fellowes, Stephanie Glenister, Niamh Mussen, Hannah Ruschen, Bethany Slater, Michelle Turnbull, Tom Vine, Paddy Wilso and Sarah Witcombe-Hayes; with contributions from Stuart Alardyce, Dr Graeme Fairchild, Professor Catherine Hamiton-Giachritsis, Dr Jenny Lloyd, Dr Emily Setty and Sally Thomas.

Published: 2020

Key findings

  • the lockdown has affected children and young people across the four nations:

    • adolescence is a time of heightened risk of some forms of harm, and emerging evidence suggests some risks may have been exacerbated by the pandemic
    • lockdown restrictions may have temporarily insulated some young people from harm. However, they may also have intensified risks to others. 
    • 32% of paediatricians had seen a child later than they would have expected to prior to the pandemic
  • there are increasing concerns about the child protection system's ability with a potential influx of newly identified concerns
  • the number and rate of recorded sexual offences against older children in all four nations have increased since 2014/15
  • the majority of looked after children and young people aged 10 to 17 are looked after due to abuse of neglect in England (57%) and Wales (65%)
  • The numbers of looked after children young people in older age categories are increasing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while in Scotland numbers of looked after adolescents accommodated away from home have started to decline
  • there were 164,220 Childline counselling sessions with adolescents in 2019/20
  • the proportion of Childline counselling sessions with adolescents about mental/emotional health has increased every year for the last six years
  • sexual abuse remains the most common form of abuse that adolescents talk to Childline about


To download the current report, and to access previous editions, see the NSPCC website's How safe are our children? page.

Further information

Discover more research articles in our resource library.

Take a look at our online safety topic pages for information and advice.