Abuse of children based on faith or belief increased from 1,460 to 1,950 cases between 2016/17 and 2018/19, a rise of 34 per cent, with councils dealing with the equivalent of 38 such cases a week.
The new figures also show that the number of children identified as either having, or being at risk of, female genital mutilation (FGM) has reached a record high – with 1,000 such cases in 2018/19, up 6 per cent on the 940 cases in the previous year.
The National FGM Centre, a joint initiative between the LGA and children’s charity Barnardo’s, says both sets of figures are hugely worrying, and probably don’t reflect the true prevalence of this ‘hidden’ crime.
The LGA said that council social workers have become better at identifying cases, and that the work of the centre – which provides services for children and their families affected by FGM and abuse linked to faith or belief – is vital.
Cllr Anita Lower, the LGA’s lead on FGM and Chair of the National FGM Centre’s Advisory Board, said: “Rising cases of FGM and child abuse linked to faith or belief are extremely worrying and are destroying the lives of children and young people in communities across the country.
“Councils are determined to tackle the practice of FGM and work with partner organisations to do everything possible to protect and support children and young people.
“To support this goal, children’s services departments need to have the funding to address the huge demand for help from children and their families and maximise the effectiveness of prevention and intervention work.”