Preventing childhood accidents in your area - a guide

Hundreds of children are killed in accidents each year in England, with thousands more being admitted to hospital. But the topic is so broad that it is often difficult to know how to start work on prevention.

Girl on bike

Below is a guide to building accident prevention activity in your area, from making the case through to finding the right partners and developing your own prevention strategy.

Why is accidental injury prevention important?

How do I start?

Step 1 – Review the policy framework

Step 2 – Identify the need

Step 3 – Build partnerships

Step 4 – Develop a strategy

Step 5 – Evaluate your success

Step 6 – Share your work

Why is accidental injury prevention important?

It can often be a struggle to make the case for accident prevention programmes if budgets are tight and there is little enthusiasm for the work in your area. However, investing money in prevention can

  • Save money in the long term – less will be spent on dealing with the effects of accidents
  • Save lives – investing in effective prevention programmes means than fewer children will be killed or seriously injured in accidents
  • Narrow the equality gap – more children from disadvantaged backgrounds are killed or injured in accidents than other children. Effective accidental injury prevention can narrow this gap and substantially improve equality in your area

It is worth noting that accident prevention is not about 'wrapping children in cotton wool'. It is about minimising unnecessary risk and creating a safer environment for children and young people, so they can live their lives to the full.

How do I start?

If you are keen to begin tackling childhood accidents, below you will find a guide that highlights the broad steps you can take to start making a difference.



Step 1 - Review the policy framework

There are a number of national policies that are relevant to preventing childhood accidents. You can get a good overview of the relevant policies in the government policy section of the website.



Step 2 - Identify the need

You’ll then need to understand what kills or seriously injures children and young people, so that you can build a picture of need in your area.

There are a number of key sources for good local data on childhood deaths and hospital admissions from accidents. These include your regional Public Health Observatory, your local authority’s road safety team, your local fire and rescue service and your local Child Death Overview Panel.

By combining information from these sources you can build up a good picture of the serious childhood accidents that you need to tackle in your area.

You may also be able to determine whether your local area has a higher rate of death or hospital admissions than the national average. This can help you make the case for action locally.



Step 3 - Build partnerships

Having established the key issues, it is time to work on building partnerships that will help you to tackle these issues.

  • Review your current partnerships. Are they formal or informal? Could you benefit from strengthening any of these partnerships?
  • Discuss the issues with your partners, and work out what their priorities are.
  • Identify any key organisations that you are not yet in contact with, and make contact. Find out whether they already carry out any accident prevention activity.

Step 4 - Develop a strategy

An accident prevention strategy will help to focus the activities in your area. You can use it to summarise the area priorities, establish targets, and pinpoint the best way to achieve them.

Your partners should be involved in creating the strategy. They will have valuable things to contribute - from guidance on what your targets should be to offers of help or integration that may help to achieve your accidental injury prevention goals.

A good strategy should include:

  • Local accident data – a broad picture of the area including population information, and information on childhood deaths and hospital admissions due to accidents. What are the most common causes of accidents? Is there an equality gap?

For help in finding this information, visit the data and statistics sources tool.

  • Policy framework – an outline of the policy drivers in accident prevention. There are a number of general policies that will have an impact on all agencies, from road safety departments to Safeguarding Children’s Boards. It could also be useful to review your Local Area Agreement, the Children and Young People's Plan, road safety plans, and talk to your Local Safeguarding Children Board. These may all have an impact on child safety policy in your local area.

For more information on this, visit the government policy section of the website.

  • Good practice – in establishing and building partnerships you will become aware of some effective accident prevention work being carried out by other agencies in your area.

Find out more about this in our partnership working topic briefing.

  • Targets – establish some targets for a reduction in accidental injury rates, deaths, or hospital admissions for your area.

To see examples of targets set in other areas, look at the case studies section.



Step 5 - Evaluate your success

Accident prevention has a reputation for being difficult to evaluate. When death rates are low and hospital admissions data is hard to obtain, it can be difficult to gain accurate measures of the success or otherwise of various programmes.

However, it is crucial to build in some kind of evaluation when planning accident prevention work. Being able to prove the impact of your work will help you to build the case for other accident prevention interventions, and it will also provide a useful source for others doing the same in different regions.

In the research section of the library you can see some examples of accident prevention programmes that have been scientifically evaluated. This should help you to choose the right methods to meet your goals, and should also give you an idea of how best to evaluate your success.

We will be developing the library to include advice on programme evaluation. Please email us about any tools or resources that you have found helpful, or partnerships that you have developed with academic bodies to support programme evaluation.



Step 6 - Share your work

Disseminating your work can often have as much, if not more, impact than carrying out the work in itself. By sharing your successes and mistakes with others throughout England, you can help to spread good practice and ensure that they can build on what you have done.

f you have a particularly successful programme, or a local accidental injury prevention strategy, that you would like to share, email:

Updated September 2012