1. Output information


 National Statistic    No
 Survey name   Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW)
 Frequency   Every three years
 How compiled   From data submitted by sources across government (including CSEW  survey data) and the voluntary sector
 Geographic  coverage   England and Wales
 Data collection   A variety of survey and administrative data
 Last revised   14 January 2020
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2. About this Quality and Methodology Information report

This quality and methodology report contains information on the quality characteristics of the data (including the European Statistical System five dimensions of quality) as well as the methods used to create it.

The information in this report will help you to:

  • understand the strengths and limitations of the data
  • learn about existing uses and users of the data
  • reduce the risk of misusing data
  • help you to decide suitable uses for the data
  • understand the methods used to create the data
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3. Important points

  • The release on Child abuse in England and Wales includes data on the prevalence of child abuse, cases of child abuse that have come to the attention of the child protection system, and use of child abuse support services.
  • The release brings together a number of different data sources to provide a more coherent picture of child abuse, but it is not possible to directly compare each of the datasets because of differences in timescales and reference periods, and because they do not all count the same thing.
  • Caveats are provided throughout to make it clear where a comparison can be made and where it may be more difficult or not possible to directly compare data sources.
  • Data from the Office for National Statistics, the Department for Education, the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office Homicide Index, and NHS Digital data on hospital admissions are classified as National Statistics. Other data from the Home Office (excluding the Homicide Index), data from the Welsh Government, Ofsted, the National Crime Agency, and NHS Digital data on female genital mutilation are classified as official statistics. All other data included in this release are sourced from administrative datasets that do not fall within the scope of official statistics.
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4. Quality summary

Overview

The aim of this release is to bring together data on child abuse to provide a better understanding of child abuse than is possible from looking at individual data sources in isolation. Administrative data sources do not represent the full extent of the issue as child abuse is often hidden from view, and there are no current surveys that measure children’s experiences of abuse. However, when different sources of information are looked at together, they can help build up a picture of the extent and nature of child abuse.

The way in which data on child abuse are collected differs between sources and organisations. Data are collected over different timescales on different bases (for example, victims or crimes). Data also vary in the way that cases are identified. This means that each section in the publication does not refer to the same cohort of cases and so direct comparisons cannot be made across sections. Throughout the publication, cautions are provided to make it clear where a comparison can be made and where it may be more difficult or not possible to directly compare data sources.

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data for the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) and police recorded crime were created is available in the Crime in England and Wales QMI.

Uses and users

Data on child abuse in England and Wales promotes significant interest from a range of users. These include:

  • elected national and local representatives (such as MPs, police and crime commissioners and local councillors)
  • the Home Office and other government agencies
  • police forces
  • those delivering support or services to victims of child abuse
  • lobby groups
  • journalists
  • academic researchers
  • teachers
  • students

The data can be used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • the development and monitoring of crime and justice policy
  • raising awareness of child abuse
  • academic research

Providing breakdowns of victim characteristics allows a greater depth of understanding about child abuse.

Table 1 shows the main user groups of child abuse statistics and how they use the data provided. The column on the left lists the classes of use identified by the UK Statistics Authority in their monitoring brief, The Use Made of Official Statistics (PDF, 125.6KB). The column on the right provides more detail on how the data fits that class of use.

Strengths and limitations

Strengths:

  • the release brings together different data sources on child abuse in England and Wales to provide a more coherent understanding of child abuse
  • an improved understanding of the extent and nature of child abuse enables action to be taken
  • action taken as a result of the release may lead to improved victim experiences, an increase in reported abuse, and hopefully over time, a reduction in the prevalence of child abuse

Limitations:

  • the different datasets included in the release do not relate to the same cases given the different timescales and reference periods used to collect the data, and do not all count the same things; therefore, each of the numbers cannot be directly compared
  • statistics on child abuse are produced separately by a number of different organisations in England and Wales; when taken in isolation, these statistics may not provide the context required by users to enable them to understand the national picture of child abuse
  • data relating to the crimes recorded by the police, children’s services and support services only refer to cases of child abuse that become visible to these organisations
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5. Quality characteristics of the Child abuse in England and Wales data

Relevance

The data collated within this release provide a clearer understanding of the extent and nature of child abuse in England and Wales than is possible from looking at each data source in isolation. It is hoped that this understanding will lead to action being taken to help reduce the prevalence of child abuse, provide better support for victims, and also to encourage more victims to report their experiences.

See Uses and users for more information.

Accuracy and reliability

The release includes data from a number of data sources, the majority of which are based on administrative records. More information on the accuracy of each of the data sources is given in the Main data sources and their accuracy section.

For more detail on the accuracy and reliability of the data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales and police recorded crime see the Crime in England and Wales QMI.

Coherence and comparability

The data included in the release come from several sources and direct comparisons cannot be made between figures. This is because the different sources of data do not always relate to the same cases as often different timescales and reference periods have been used during collection. They also do not count the same things; for example, some record the number of victims, while others record the number of offences that occurred.

For most of the data sources, comparisons over time can be made, for example, the number of children subject to a child protection plan for abuse or neglect. However, comparisons should not be made between the change in the number of child abuse offences recorded by the police over time. These numbers are based on offences where there were data to identify that the victim was a child. Provision of these data will vary by police force and over time. Changes in the number of child abuse offences recorded by the police can also be affected by changes in levels of reporting to the police or police recording practices.

Concepts and definitions

There is no specific offence of “child abuse” in law. Generally, practitioners have come to define child abuse based on the laws designed to protect children from harm. For example, Working Together to Safeguard Children (PDF, 2.21MB) defines abuse as:

“A form of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting by those known to them or, more rarely, by others. Abuse can take place wholly online, or technology may be used to facilitate offline abuse. Children may be abused by an adult or adults, or another child or children.”

A child is defined as anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. This is consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Article 1 states that everyone under the age of 18 years has all the rights in the Convention.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales collects information on adults’ experiences of the following types of abuse before the age of 16 years:

  • physical abuse by someone aged 16 years or over
  • emotional abuse by someone aged 16 years or over
  • sexual abuse by any perpetrator
  • witnessing domestic violence or abuse

Geography

The majority of data on child abuse included in the release are available at a national level for England and Wales. However, some data sources cover the whole of the UK or are worldwide and cannot be disaggregated to provide statistics for England and Wales only. Table 2 provides information on the geographical coverage of each data source included in the release.

Accessibility and clarity

Our recommended format for accessible content is a combination of HTML web pages for narrative, charts and graphs, with data being provided in usable formats such as CSV and Excel. Our website also offers users the option to download the narrative in PDF format. In some instances, other software may be used, or may be available on request. Available formats for content published on our website, but not produced by us, or referenced on our website but stored elsewhere, may vary. For further information, contact crimestatistics@ons.gov.uk.

For information regarding conditions of access to data:

Timeliness and punctuality

This is the first time the Child abuse in England and Wales release has been published. The data included in the release are the latest available at the time of publishing. Information on the latest time period of each of the data sources included in the release is given in Table 2.

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6. Methods used to produce the Child abuse in England and Wales data

Main data sources and their accuracy

Statistics on child abuse are produced separately by a number of different organisations in England and Wales. When taken in isolation, these statistics may not provide the context required by users to enable them to understand the national picture of child abuse. Table 2 provides details of each of the data sources included in this release.

How we analyse and quality assure the data

Several methods are used to ensure the quality of the Crime Survey for England and Wales data collection operation by both Kantar Public, the survey contractor, and the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Kantar Public has robust quality management systems in place, which are formally accredited, and endorsed and supported at a corporate level. More information can be found in the annual technical reports.

We also have quality management systems in place to further quality assure the data when it comes to us for final preparation and publication. Any errors identified through these checks are returned to Kantar Public for validation or correction. Checks are also carried out within the team throughout the data production process before final publication.

Regarding police recorded crime, prior to submitting data to us, the Home Office Police Data Collection Section (PDCS) and Home Office Statistics Unit carry out internal quality assurance of the recorded crime data. Any anomalies or errors identified through these checks result in a report being returned to the relevant force for validation or correction. Prior to publication of any crime statistics, verification checks are also carried out, asking individual forces for confirmation that the data accords with that held on their own systems. For more information, see Chapter 3 of the User guide.

All other data included in the release are quality assured by the individual data suppliers and further checks are carried out by our team on receipt of the data. Any discrepancies are queried with the supplier for validation.

How we disseminate the data

This is the first time the Child abuse in England and Wales release has been published. The release includes a number of separate publications describing the main patterns and trends in the data. These publications are accompanied by data tables. A data landscape is also provided to give users a comprehensive list of data sources relating to child abuse, not all of which are included in the release.

How we review the data

The data sources included in this release were discussed and agreed with main stakeholders in advance of production. In the development of any future releases on child abuse in England and Wales, we will review the content and data sources used to identify any improvements that can be made.

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7. Other information

Useful links

Child abuse in England and Wales: January 2020
Bulletin | Released 14 January 2020
Statistics and research on child abuse in England and Wales, bringing together a range of different data sources from across government and the voluntary sector.

Crime in England and Wales QMI
Methodology | Revised 18 July 2019
This Quality and Methodology Information report provides a range of information that describes the quality of the Crime in England and Wales output and details any points that should be noted when using the output.

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Contact details for this Methodology

Meghan Elkin
crimestatistics@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7592 8695