A sharp rise in child welfare referrals being made from the NSPCC helpline to external agencies such as the police or children’s services in the South West in the last year – against the backdrop of the pandemic – has been revealed by the child protection charity.
There were 4,794 referrals made by the helpline to external agencies in the region in 2020/21 – a 41% increase compared to 2019/20 when there were 3,393 referrals.
Referrals are made when concerns reported to the helpline are considered serious enough to warrant further investigation.
The top reasons for referrals being made go unchanged, with concerns relating to parental and adult health and behaviour leading to 1,525 referrals to South West based agencies. This includes worries about parental alcohol and substance misuse, domestic abuse and parental mental health.
Across the UK a record number of adults with concerns about children called the NSPCC in the last 12 months, as contacts to its helpline surged by nearly a quarter.
The national service received nearly 85,000 contacts from April 2020 to March 2021, a 23% increase on the previous year, with 47% of these leading to a referral to an external agency such as the police or children’s services.
The figures echo concerns from the charity’s frontline teams that the pandemic has increased the risks of abuse and neglect, with children both more vulnerable and out of sight of people who can keep them safe.
The NSPCC is now warning that with most children back in schools and society, the hidden harms they experienced during the lockdowns will become visible.
The charity is calling for the Governments across the UK to invest in a positive future for children by ensuring their catch-up plans go beyond education.