By Isabel Togoh
Child cruelty and neglect offences recorded by police have doubled over the last five years, analysis by the NSPCC has revealed.
Nearly 17,000 cases were recorded in 2017/18, up from 7,965 in 2012/13, according to Home Office figures. It’s a rise of 112%.
Neglect was the most common reason that people contacted the helpline. Extreme cases included a parent or carer deliberately neglecting, assaulting, abandoning or exposing their child to serious harm.
The exact causes behind the sharp rise is not known, although charity boss Peter Wanless said “greater public awareness” and improvements in police records could be behind the figure.
The number is reflected in the amount of calls made to the NSPCC helpline about children suffering neglect, which reached 19,937 last year.
Three-quarters of those calls were referred to the police, the child protection charity said.
Tracy Hamer, a helpline practitioner at the charity, made a recent referral.
“The police went out to do a welfare check, and later told me that mum had been found unwell and violently vomiting and unable to care for her three-year-old daughter,” she said.
“The house was in a state of disrepair and the kitchen worktops were covered in dirty crockery with mould on them. The washing machine was broken, and mum said that water would come up through the pipes when she tried to use t so she couldn’t clean any clothes.”
There isn’t a voice for these children, if somebody’s not fighting for them, then nothing happens
Foster carer Paula Hudgell and her partner adopted Tony, 4, in 2016, after the youngster was admitted to hospital at almost 6 weeks old with numerous fractures, dislocations, blunt trauma to the face, sepsis and toxic shock.
Doctors did not expect him to survive after he was admitted in November 2014.
When the Hudgells received the call for adoption from social services and went to see the baby, he was “very shut down, withdrawn, very fragile”, Paula told HuffPost UK.
She added: “He had issues with his legs and his joints were pretty poor and last year he had to have both of his legs amputated because the damage was so great.
“He’s now a very lively, vibrant, confident little boy who has filled our family with so much love and he’s amazing”.
Hudgell brought a prosecution against Tony’s birth parents who were both jailed for 10 years for causing and allowing serious harm, and five years for neglect to run concurrently.
Hudgell is now campaigning with her MP, Tom Tugendhat, for tougher sentences, adding that she found the figures “horrific”.
“There isn’t a voice for these children, if somebody’s not fighting for them, then nothing happens. There isn’t the resources, help and protection when these babies are born. There needs to be some change – if that’s doubled in five years, what’s it going to be in 10 years? It’s not acceptable.”
In total, last year saw almost 28,000 children on a child protection plan or register for concerns involving neglect.
Signs of child neglect include poor appearance or hygiene, poor language or communication skills, untreated medical medical or dental issues, or being left alone for a long time.
It comes as the charity launched its ‘Light for Every Childhood’ Christmas appeal to highlight the most common forms of abuse faced by children in Britain.
Landmarks across the UK, including the London Eye and the i360 in Brighton, have lit up green in support of the campaign.
Wanless said: “Whatever the reasons for the increase in child neglect there is something we can all do about it now, we need to be aware of vulnerable children and be ready to report it to the NSPCC or the authorities if we are concerned for their safety or wellbeing.”
- Childline – free and confidential support for young people in the UK – 0800 1111