More adults than ever before are contacting the NSPCC with concerns about neglected children, new figures reveal.
A report, published today, shows that the children’s charity receives an average of 53 phone calls a day – a total of 19,448 over 2016-17. This is the highest number that the charity has ever had to deal with, and represents an increase of 61 per cent over the past five years.
The majority – 87 per cent – of these phone calls involved cases that were serious enough to be referred to social services or the police.
A growing number of callers to the NSPCC helpline also refer to parents with alcohol or drug problems, or who leave their children unsupervised so that they can go out with friends.
One caller told the charity: “The child is filthy. Her hair is greasy, she smells, her clothes and hands are dirty, and she’s always hungry. I spoke to the mother about this, and she told me that this is what children are like. But I know that’s not true.”
The NSPCC believes that the increase in the number of neglect-related calls to its helpline simply indicates a rise in the number of people willing to speak up about the issue.
It suggests that the full scale of the problem could be much greater than that being currently reported. And it is urging the government to conduct a national study into the extent of child neglect and abuse.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “Neglect can have severe and long-lasting consequences for children, and can also be an indicator of other forms of abuse.
“It is vital we understand the true nature and scale of child neglect in the UK, so we can collectively tackle the fundamental causes.”
Signs of neglect
According to the NSPCC, common signs that children are being neglected include:
- Poor appearance and hygiene, including smelly or unwashed clothes
- Untreated injuries, or medical and dental issues
- Skin sores, rashes, flea bites, scabies or ringworm
- Poor language, communication or social skills
- Hunger: they may turn up for school not having eaten breakfast, or without any lunch money
- Cold: they may have been left at home without any heating
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