Concerns about child cruelty and neglect offences in the UK are continuing to rise with police recorded offences increasing by 53% in three years, the NSPCC reports.
The charity is today releasing new analysis of police data for the whole of the UK, which reveals that there were 23,529 offences recorded by forces in 2019/20.
Although there are significant variations between different regions and nations, overall the analysis finds an increase of 53% compared to 2016/17, and more than double the total in 2013/14.
Figures from Devon and Cornwall Police revealed a 527% increase in the number of offences from 2013/14, rising from 70 to 439.
The NSPCC also examined the number of offences that took place in the first three months of the spring lockdown and found that 5,476 child cruelty and neglect offences were recorded by police from 1st April to the 30th June this year, with 81 coming from Devon and Cornwall.
Although a significant number, senior police have argued that this does not provide the full picture of what children may have experienced during those months.
While not every police-recorded offence leads to a prosecution or child protection outcome, each represents a significant concern raised to the police about a child.
The NSPCC has issued the findings as part of a warning that children may be at risk of abuse this Christmas and that everyone needs to play their part in keeping young people safe.
To raise awareness of child neglect and abuse this Christmas, a number of iconic UK landmarks including Battersea Power Station will turn green from the 7th December, supporting the NSPCC’s Here for Children Christmas Appeal.
The charity has also launched a new TV appeal which depicts some of the heart-breaking abuse contacts the NSPCC run service Childline expects to take in the Christmas holidays.
Over the last six months the NSPCC has been looking closely at the impact of lockdown – and its frontline teams are concerned that increased vulnerability, the challenges of safeguarding remotely and wider pressures on families may have increased the risks of abuse and neglect.
During the spring lockdown, an average of 50 children a day turned to Childline after suffering abuse, with counselling sessions about this issue increasing by 22% compared with pre-lockdown levels.
As part of its new appeal, the charity is calling on the public to donate £20 to the NSPCC so that services like Childline can be here for children this Christmas.
Everyone has a role to play in keeping children safe. The charity is reminding adults that if they have concerns about a child’s welfare they can call the NSPCC helpline.
The NSPCC is also urging the Government to ensure that a comprehensive recovery plan is put in place that sees children get the help they need in the short and long term, including investment in support for victims before, during and after the criminal justice process.
Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC said:
“The pandemic is the greatest challenge we’ve faced in decades and these figures are yet another example of its impact on vulnerable children. They also provide a heart-breaking picture of the concern about the number of young people who were exposed to pain and suffering following the start of the pandemic.
“This year it is even more essential that children have a place where they can seek help and support. Our Childline service will be running every day over the Christmas holidays, but we need the public’s support so we can ensure vulnerable children are heard.”
Spotting the signs of abuse
The NSPCC is encouraging the public to look out for signs of abuse and speak up if they are concerned about a child. Signs of abuse and neglect to look out for can include:
- Untreated injuries, medical and dental issues
- Repeated accidental injuries caused by lack of supervision
- Recurring illnesses or infections
- Faltering weight or growth, and not reaching developmental milestones
- Poor language, communication or social skills
- Have unwashed clothes
- Have inadequate clothing, like not having a winter coat
- Living in an unsuitable home environment – for example without adequate heating, or dog mess being left
- Left alone for a long time
- Taking on the role of carer for other family members
Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline seven days a week on 0808 800 5000, or email firstname.lastname@example.org