Vulnerable babies may be at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic amid increased tension in families, the chief inspector of Ofsted is to warn.
It comes after a rise in reports of babies that have died or been seriously harmed through abuse or neglect since April.
Speaking at the National Children and Adults Services Conference, Amanda Spielman will call on local authorities to be “alive to this hidden danger” to ensure vulnerable young children are protected.
Councils have to report any serious incidents where a child dies or is harmed through abuse or neglect to the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel.
These notifications are then shared with Ofsted and the Government.
Each week, Ofsted is seeing more notifications about harm to children under one and the lockdown has added to a “toxic mix” of pressures, Ms Spielman will suggest.
Between April and October this year, the watchdog saw more than 300 serious incident notifications and nearly two in five were about babies – which is over a fifth more than in the same period of last year.
Addressing the “stark” figures, Ms Spielman will say: “Tragically over half of these cases – that’s 64 children – suffered non-accidental injuries. And sadly, eight died as a result.
“Of course, babies can’t tell an adult if there’s a problem. Often, abuse is only uncovered when there’s a critical injury, or it’s too late. Another young life damaged, and in the worst cases, lost, before it’s really had chance to begin…
“It doesn’t bear thinking about. But we must all be alive to this hidden danger.”
Children’s Minister Vicky Ford said: “We have asked children’s social services across the country to prioritise support for families with new babies and especially those families who had already faced difficulties before COVID.
“We have taken urgent action to help councils and frontline professionals support infants.”