State of children in Suffolk
What is it?
The State of Children in Suffolk report aims to provide an overview of the health and wellbeing of children and young people in Suffolk.
The dropdown sections summarise the key points from each topic within the report, and there are links below to the complete chapters.
How recent is the data?
We published the sections in 2022. We used the most up-to-date information available at the time of writing.
State of children in Suffolk sections
- On 31st March 2021, there were 3,937 children in need in Suffolk. The rate of children in need has increased in Suffolk in recent years, and the current rate of 257.6 (per 10,000 children aged under 18) is the highest it has been locally since 2013. Although increasing, the current rate in Suffolk remains significantly lower (statistically) than the England average of 321.2 per 10,000, and below the rate for its statistical neighbours (267.1 per 10,000).
- There were 498 children in Suffolk who were subject to a child protection plan on 31st March 2021. The rate of child protection plans in Suffolk has increased in recent years, and the current rate of 32.6 (per 10,000 children aged under 18) is the highest it has been locally since 2014. Although increasing, the current rate in Suffolk remains significantly lower (statistically) than the England average of 41.4 per 10,000, and below the rate for its statistical neighbours (37.3 per 10,000).
- Neglect (56.2%) was the most common initial category of abuse recorded for children on child protection plans in Suffolk. This proportion is significantly higher (statistically) than the England average of 48.2%. A further 33.5% of child protection plans in Suffolk were due to emotional abuse.
- There were 947 children in care in Suffolk on 31st March 2021. Since 2018, the rate of children in care in Suffolk has steadily increased, and the current rate of 62 (per 10,000 children aged under 18) is the highest it has been since 2018. Although increasing, the current rate in Suffolk is significantly lower (statistically) than the England average of 67 per 10,000 (but higher than Suffolk’s statistical neighbours, 59.6). The Suffolk rate is affected by numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children: unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are a statistically significantly higher percentage of looked after children in Suffolk than England, and than most (eight) of Suffolk’s statistical neighbours.
- Locally, most children in care in Suffolk had a recorded need of abuse or neglect – 67.5%. This is similar to the national average of 66%. Local families in acute stress (10.6%) and “family dysfunction” (9.0%) were the other two highest categories of need of children in care.
- Between 2015/16 and 2020/21, the number of pupils receiving special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) support in all schools in Suffolk increased from 10,803 to 12,670 (a significant increase from 9.9% to 11.4%). Although increasing, the current proportion in Suffolk remains significantly lower (statistically) than England (12.2%) and Suffolk’s statistical neighbours (13.0%).
- The top five most common primary needs among pupils receiving SEND support in Suffolk in 2020/21 were: speech, language, and communication needs (19.8%); social, emotional, and mental health needs (17.6%); specific learning difficulties (17.4%); moderate learning difficulties (13.7%); other difficulties or disabilities (10%).
- In 2021/22, 4,327 pupils in Suffolk had a statement of special educational needs or an education, health and care (EHC) plan in Suffolk (3,964 excluding pupils at independent schools). Among pupils with a statement or an EHC plan in Suffolk (excluding pupils at independent schools), the most common primary needs in 2021/22 were: autism spectrum (25.0%), speech, language, and communication needs (16.2%), and social, emotional and mental health needs (14.0%).
- In 2020/21, 19.3% of primary school pupils in Suffolk (10,969 pupils) were eligible for free school meals. 15.9% of secondary school pupils were eligible (7,119 pupils). Both percentages are significantly lower than England (21.6% of primary pupils, 18.9% of secondary pupils), but higher than Suffolk’s statistical neighbours (18.7% primary pupils and 15.7% secondary pupils).
- In January 2021, 10.2% of state-funded primary school pupils in Suffolk did not have English as a first language (5,813 pupils). In state-funded secondary schools, it was 7.5%. (3,350). These percentages are statistically significantly lower than England (20.9% and 17.2%), but higher than Suffolk’s statistical neighbour group (7.1% and 5.8%).
- In 2019/20, it was estimated that around 12,260 children under the age of 16 in Suffolk had a reported disability (9%). Social or behavioural impairments were the most common impairment type reported among disabled children (37%), followed by mental health and “other” (both 21%).
- 1 in 5 Gypsy Traveller mothers will experience the loss of a child compared to 1 in a 100 in the non-Traveller community.
- Among 16-24 year olds in Suffolk, there are an estimated 4,190 to 6,050 people who are likely to identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or other.
- In 2020/21, the impact of being a young carer was identified in 418 children social care assessments across Suffolk (6.6% of completed assessments, significantly higher than England 3.5%).
- Of the 175 care leavers aged 17-18 in Suffolk in 2020/21, 96.0% were in suitable accommodation, which is significantly higher than England (90.7%). Among 436 Suffolk care leavers aged 19-21 years old, 86.7% were in suitable accommodation, statistically similar to England (87.3%).
- 70.8% of 175 care leavers aged 17-18 in Suffolk were in education, employment, or training in 2020/21, statistically similar to England (65.0%). Of 440 Suffolk care leavers aged 19-21, 48.6% were in education, employment, or training, statistically similar to England (52.0%).
- Communities are often regarded as geographical, where a group of people live in the same place. However, communities can also be centred around a specific social, leisure, economic or health activity, need or interest, and where groups of people share the same characteristics, attitudes or interests.
- For children and young people, the first experience of community is usually the family unit into which they are born and raised, and the locality in which they grow up. Nursery and school also offer a sense of community, as do after school clubs and membership of a sports team or other common interest groups.
- Resilient communities have an important role in action on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). ACEs have been found to have lifelong impacts on health and behaviour and they are relevant to all sectors and involve all of us in society.
- ACEs include various forms of physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction experienced in childhood. These experiences can lead to poor health and social outcomes in adulthood. As the number of ACEs experienced by a child increase, so does the risk of poor outcomes.
- The Youth Focus Programme in Suffolk recognises the crucial role people within local communities – shopkeepers, youth workers, sports coaches, neighbours – have in supporting local young people to develop a sense of belonging as well as encouraging them to aspire, thrive and grow.
- A Healthwatch Suffolk report found that some (less than one hour per day) social media usage resulted in higher well-being scores than abstinence from social media entirely. However, high levels of social media activity were linked to reported lower well-being scores, with average well-being scores decreasing with each additional hour spent on social media.
- Not all communities are beneficial to children and young people’s well-being, even though they may provide a sense of identity or belonging. ‘Unhealthy’ communities are those that do not provide children and young people with a safe environment in which to grow and develop successfully and may leave them feeling lonely and disconnected from the world around them.
- In instances where a child has grown up in an unhealthy family environment for example, a sense of belonging may be achieved by contact and involvement with groups/communities that may exploit that child/young person, for example, county lines.
- The health-protecting and health-harming factors of communities are not equally distributed, with those living in deprived areas less likely to experience the positive benefits that communities can offer. In addition, they are more likely to experience the negative aspects of communities.
- There are nearly 102,000 pupils in state-funded primary and secondary schools in Suffolk in 2020/21. In addition, there are 1,300 pupils under special school provision, and approximately 170 in pupil referral units.
- In 2018/19, 70.7% of pupils in Suffolk achieved a good level of development by the end of Reception Year (first year of primary school), which is significantly lower (statistically) than the national average of 71.8%. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more recent data may not be comparable.
- At the end of Key Stage 2 (last year of primary school), 62% of pupils in Suffolk met the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in 2018/19, which is significantly lower (statistically) than the national average of 65%. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more recent data may not be comparable.
- In 2018/19, 39% of pupils in Suffolk achieved a good pass in English and maths in their GCSEs, whilst 61.9% achieved a standard pass. Both of these are significantly lower (statistically) than the England averages of 43.4% for a good pass and 64.9% for a standard pass. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more recent data may not be comparable.
- 76.5% of students in Suffolk achieved at least 2 A-levels in 2018/19 compared with 80% nationally; 8.7% achieved 3 A*-A grades or better (10.8% in England); 16% achieved AAB grades or better (18.4% in England). 81% of students in Suffolk achieved at least 2 substantial Level 3 qualifications (84.7% nationally). All four measures are significantly lower (statistically) in Suffolk compared with England. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more recent data may not be comparable.
- In 2020/21, 4% of 16-18 year olds in Suffolk were not in education, employment or training (NEET). Locally, this means there were 886 children and young people that were NEET in 2020/21.
- Almost 1 in 4 people in Suffolk (24.8%) had an undergraduate degree or higher compared with 1 in 3 (33.1%) nationally in 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more recent data may not be comparable.
- In 2020/21, around 2 in 3 16-24 year olds (67.6%) were economically active in Suffolk (59.8% in England), whilst 1 in 3 (32.4%) were economically inactive (40.2% in England). Just over half (53.7%) of 16-24 year olds were in employment in Suffolk in 2020/21, slightly higher than the England average of 51%.
- Across Suffolk, the greatest levels of deprivation on the Children and Young People sub-domain are around Mildenhall, Newmarket, Haverhill, Glemsford, Sudbury, Bury St Edmunds, Stanton, Stowmarket, Ipswich, Felixstowe, Leiston, Reydon, Bungay, and Lowestoft. Additional hotspots of deprivation on the Adult Skills sub-domain include areas around Hundon, which is close to Haverhill.
- In 2017, Ipswich, Forest Heath (West Suffolk), Babergh, and Waveney (East Suffolk) were ranked in the worst 20% of local authorities for social mobility, which indicates that people from disadvantaged backgrounds in these areas were least likely to make social progress. This data has not been updated since 2017.
- A stable, nurturing, and safe environment in childhood provides the basis from which children and young people can develop, build resilience, learn how to form healthy and fulfilling relationships and social networks and achieve their potential in adulthood.
- Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) appear to be linked to important outcomes in areas such as health and social care, criminal justice, and policing. Children who experience stressful childhoods are more likely to adopt health-harming behaviours during their adolescence, which can lead to mental ill health and diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes later in life.
- There were 916 children in care in Suffolk on the 31st of March 2022. This compares with 854 children in care locally in 2018. Since 2018, the rate of children in care in Suffolk has steadily increased, and the latest rate (for 2020/21) of 62 per 10,000 children aged under 18 is the highest it has been since 2018.
- There were 916 children in care in Suffolk on the 31st of March 2022. This compares with 854 children in care locally in 2018. Since 2018, the number of children in care in Suffolk steadily increased, although the latest locally provided figure (n=916) is lower than the previous year(n=947). Although increasing, the rate of children in care in Suffolk remains significantly lower (statistically) than the England average of 67 per 10,000 (2020/21).
- Within Suffolk, the rate of hospital admissions caused by unintentional and deliberate injuries in children aged 0-14 years has been falling since 2010/11. In 2020/21, the rate of hospital admissions were statistically significantly higher than the national average, having been consistently statistically lower in all previous years.
- Rates of hospital admissions for self-harm are relatively high in Suffolk. In 2020/21 Suffolk had the second highest rate of admissions per 100,000 children aged 10-24 years in the East of England and the highest rate in those aged 15-19 years. Over the last three years, Suffolk has had rates of hospital admissions statistically significantly above the national average.
- Bullying affects children and young people’s emotional well-being. Children and young people in Suffolk that had not reported being bullied (since September 2020) had a higher well-being score than those that had been bullied: 44.3 compared to 38.0.
- Local data for 2021 shows that the rate of first-time entrants aged 10-17 years to the youth justice system per 100,000 population in Suffolk was 164 (n=114), higher than the England average of 146 per 100,000.
- An association between the time spent by children and young people looking at a screen -screen time – and the parent-children relationship was identified in a report by Healthwatch Suffolk. Those children and young people who reported higher levels of screen time were not only less likely to say that their parents were important for support with their mental health but also less likely to approach them for support.
- The most recent data at the time of writing (20 April 2022) gave a COVID-19 case rate in 0-19 year olds in Suffolk of 105.05 per 100,000. The highest case rate in the past 52 weeks was in January 2022: 2,414.34 per 100,000. At 22 April 2022, in Suffolk, 62.6% pupils aged 12-15 years, 74.7% 16-17 year olds and 80.7% 18-24 year olds had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.1
- COVID-19 and the measures to control it have had short-term impacts on children and young people, including reduced contact with friends and wider family, and limited access to support such as children’s centres and social workers. Many families also experienced increased stress due to financial pressures.
- National studies suggest children and young people may have experienced sleep disruption, decreases in physical exercise, increases in the amount of “unhealthy” (processed) foods consumed, and poorer mental health. These changes can have impacts into adulthood.
- The Department for Education reported that, in autumn 2021/22, primary school pupils had lost around 0.8 months in reading and secondary school pupils had lost around 2.4 months in reading when compared to similar pupils at the start of 2019/20.
- COVID-19’s medium and long-term impacts will take years to appear in the data. Even information on the immediate impact in Suffolk is limited as services and data collection (including health visits, child assessments, educational testing, and survey work) were disrupted.
- Children and young people from vulnerable backgrounds appear to have been further disadvantaged during the pandemic experiencing increased food insecurity, and a widened educational attainment gap.
- Although England as a whole saw a fall in referrals to Children’s Social Services during the first year of the pandemic, rates increased in Suffolk.
- Young people’s emotional wellbeing worsened during the pandemic.
- In December 2020, 92.3% of Suffolk young people (aged 16 and 17) were in education or training (part of an increasing trend since 2018). By December 2021, over a quarter (26.6%) of 16-19 year olds in Suffolk were unemployed, compared to only 5.9% 20-24 year olds.
- Most people who experience mental ill health as adults had a first episode before the age of 24. Mental ill health in childhood can affect educational attainment and socialisation, further impacting adult life.
- In 2021, in England, one in six (17.4%) of both 6 to 16 year olds and 17 to 19 year olds were likely to have a probable mental disorder, an increase (worsening) compared to 2017. This would suggest that, in 2021, around 21,000 children and young people in Suffolk (aged 6-19) had a probable mental health disorder. National survey data suggests hyperactivity and behavioural disorders are more prevalent in boys and young men, while girls and young women are more likely to experience emotional disorders.
- Pre-pandemic national prevalence figures suggest that around 10,140 (between 9,050-11,500) children and young people aged 5-19 in Suffolk could have an emotional disorder (including anxiety, depression, bipolar).
- Healthwatch Suffolk report that Suffolk young people’s wellbeing outcomes consistently appear poorer (lower) than national averages.
- Suffolk emergency hospital admissions for self-harm in young people (aged 10-24 years) are significantly worse than the England rates, and the Suffolk trend is worsening (increasing). Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, and Norfolk and Waveney CCG have rates significantly higher than England (West Suffolk CCG is statistically similar to England).
- Children and young people with a mental disorder are more likely to be bullied and to bully others (online and in person).
- Suffolk young people who identify as LGBT*Q+ tend to experience poorer wellbeing.
- Children and young people with additional vulnerabilities (including having a mental health difficulty, receiving free school meals, being a carer or with experience of being in care) are more likely to report low resilience and lower wellbeing.
- Suffolk has a statistically significantly lower proportion of babies who have a first feed of breast milk than England, and a statistically significantly higher rate of hospital admissions for babies aged under 14 days (this is often linked to problems with feeding). However, breastfeeding prevalence at 6-8 weeks is statistically significantly higher (better) than England.
- Childhood immunisation data indicates Suffolk achieves the lower threshold of 90% coverage for all key immunisations for children aged five and under. Population vaccination coverage is significantly higher (better) than England for all childhood vaccines and immunisations. However, more needs to be done to meet the World Health Organisation target of 95% coverage which provides protection to wider society and can lead to disease elimination.
- Asthma is the most common long-term condition among children and young people, with around 12,400 children aged 0-15 in Suffolk estimated to have the condition in 2020. Emergency hospital admissions for asthma in children aged 0-9 are statistically significantly higher (worse) than England.
- Emergency hospital admissions for diabetes in children and young people (under 19) for Suffolk are significantly higher (worse) than England.
- Despite performing better than England, more than one in five (21.6%) Reception Year children and nearly one in three (31.7%) Year 6 students in Suffolk are above the recommended healthy weight (overweight or obese).
- Childhood obesity rates are around twice as high in the most deprived areas of Suffolk compared to the least deprived areas (Reception Year, children aged 4-5 and Year 6, children aged 10-11).
- NHS dental services and hospital admissions have been affected by the pandemic, so the prevalence of tooth decay is probably underestimated in children in Suffolk. Unmet or unidentified demand would show as increased (worsening) prevalence of tooth decay (dental caries) in the data in future years.
- Whilst A&E attendances for children and young people under one and 0-4 are statistically significantly lower (better) compared to England, emergency hospital admissions for babies under one year and children aged 0-4 years are significantly higher, as are rates of admission for unintentional and deliberate injures in 0-4 and 0-14 year olds.
- In 2020, 761,246 people were estimated to be living in Suffolk. Of this total, 202,688 (26.6%) were children and young people aged 0-24 years of age, which is lower than the England average of 29.7%.
- Over the past decade, the number of children and young people aged 0-24 in Suffolk has fallen by nearly 5,400, a fall of 2.6% compared with a 3.0% increase nationally. A similar fall is projected to happen over the next 20 years within Suffolk, compared with a slight increase of 0.1% nationally.
- Just under 20% of local primary school pupils were from a minority ethnic group, compared with around 16% of secondary school pupils. These proportions have increased over the past five years.
- There were 6,811 live births in Suffolk in 2020, a fall of 5.9% from 2019. The number of live births to local mothers aged under 25 years continues to fall, and has fallen from nearly 1,700 in 2015 to around 1,250 in 2020.
- Nearly 26,000 children and young people in Suffolk live in areas classified as being among the 20% most deprived in England, which is 12.7% of the population of 0-24 year olds.
- The proportion of children aged under 16 living in poverty has increased in Suffolk from 13.0% in 2014/15 to 16.5% in 2019/20. This means that approximately 22,750 local children under 16 are living in poverty.
- There were around 18,500 lone parent households with dependent children in Suffolk in 2020, which is approximately 7.5% of all local households.
- Whilst COVID-19 restrictions led to some positive experiences (such as spending more time with carers), young people also reported a range of negative experiences including missing family and friends, increased arguments at home, and concerns about the health of loved ones.
- Anxiety, fear, worry and poor mental health were common in the feedback from children and young people during the pandemic.
- Children and young people were concerned about the impact of the lockdowns on their future. However, lockdowns also gave some young people time to reflect and reconsider what was important to them. This included study or career choices, as well as religious belief and personal identity.
- There was recognition that going to school/education is important. However, some children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities felt helped by the lockdowns. Many groups, including those at high risk of infection, felt anxiety about returning to school.
- Loneliness is seen as a cause of poor mental health and increased self-harm. Young people and families don’t know where to go for support for mental ill health and waiting lists can be long.
My Health our Future
My Health, Our Future (MHoF) is Healthwatch Suffolk's programme of work exploring more than 38,000 responses from children and young people about their mental health and emotional well-being in Suffolk.
More than 4,500 students responded to the latest My Health, Our Future survey in 2021. One of the key findings from the 2021 survey included:
Young people are now less resilient and more likely to have poorer well-being compared to 2019, revealing the negative impact of the pandemic on their mental health.
Find out more about the report by visiting the dedicated pages on the Healthwatch Suffolk website.
Links to each State of Children in Suffolk paper
- Children and Young People Who May Need Extra SupportPDF1.38MB
- Community - State of children in SuffolkPDF831KB
- Education, skills and trainingPDF966KB
- Feeling safe - State of children in Suffolk (2022)PDF2.19MB
- Impact of COVID-19 - State of Children in Suffolk (2022)PDF862KB
- Mental health - State of Children in Suffolk (2022)PDF788KB
- Physical health - State of Children in Suffolk (2022)PDF1.67MB
- Population and families PDF1.01MB
- Summary of Engagement with Children and Young People during the pandemic (2020 – 2022) - State of Children in Suffolk (2022)PDF326KB