The challenges of measuring crimes against children post-pandemic 

Understanding children’s experiences of crime and factors that make children more at risk of victimisation is crucial to enabling evidence-informed decision making and policies that support and protect young people. Today, for the first time since before the pandemic, we have been able to produce estimates on crimes against children. However, as Sophie Sanders explains, it has not been without challenge. 

Measuring crimes against children, as some of the most vulnerable members of society and sensitive topics to explore, has always been challenging. However, since returning to the field in April 2022 after a two-year suspension, the 10- to 15-year-olds Children’s Crime Survey for England and Wales (CCSEW) has suffered increased impacts of the low response seen generally across all household surveys. 

In households where an adult takes part in the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), parents of a selected 10- to 15-year-old are asked for consent for their child to take part in the CCSEW. Response rates for the CSEW have fallen from around 70% pre-pandemic to an estimated 42% in the year ending March 2023. Lower response rates and other fieldwork challenges resulted in lower achieved interview numbers for the CSEW and subsequently for the CCSEW. 

Between April 2022 and March 2023, 1,300 interviews with children for the CCSEW were achieved, substantially lower than the targeted 3,000 and just over half the number achieved in the 12 months prior to April 2020 (2,398). 

What today’s figures tell us  

We have been able to publish a more limited set of tables than usual and would recommend caution is taken when interpreting the figures and making comparisons over time as the quality of the estimates will have been impacted by the smaller sample size.  

We can though see that overall crime experienced by children aged 10 to 15 in the year ending March 2023 remains broadly consistent with levels seen over the last decade, with 1 in 10 children having been a victim in the previous 12 months. A higher proportion of older children, boys and children with disabilities were victims of crime. 

It has not been possible to produce demographic breakdowns by crime type or numbers of incidents and incidence rates for crime experienced by children due to the small base sizes and uncertainty over quality.  

What does the future hold?  

We are undertaking an exciting transformation of the CCSEW, aiming to deliver an online survey that provides a larger and more representative sample, offers improved quality and granularity of estimates, a shorter data collection period and more timely estimates. We’ve made excellent progress so far this year with our first pilot receiving positive engagement and providing valuable learning to shape the next steps of the research.  

Due to the longer-term benefits and sustainability, survey transformation will be our priority to ensure we can deliver data to better meet user needs. Since April 2023 we’ve implemented some improvements to the CCSEW field operation and in the mean time we’ll continue to closely monitor the situation in the field.  

Our next planned release of data from the CCSEW will be in 2024 and will cover other harmful experiences of children collected in 2022/23, including bullying and activity online. As improved quality is a key aspect of our transformation, we will be carefully monitoring this as the work progresses. This will enable us to have a fuller picture of the data quality from the field and a greater understanding of how response is changing over time. 

If you would like to know more, please get in touch with us at 

Sophie Sanders

Sophie Sanders
Head of Crimes Against Children