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Calls about neglect to NSPCC double in two years

Sad looking teenagerThe NSPCC is warning that a sharp increase in reports of neglect cases is putting additional pressure on already stretched children's services. New figures released by the charity show that reports to its helpline about neglect have doubled over the past two years to reach record levels.

The latest NSPCC helpline report shows that last year there were twice as many calls and emails to the charity about neglect as in 2009/10. NSPCC counsellors dealt with over 12,000 contacts about neglect from the public - the biggest number of reports about neglect yet recorded by the charity's helpline.

The rise in reports of neglect to the NSPCC comes as local children's services face unprecedented pressures, with more children being taken into care, and more families needing help at a time of significant funding cuts.

Dr Ruth Gardner, head of the NSPCC's neglect programme, said: "More people than ever are contacting the NSPCC about child neglect. Some of this will be down to the public being more willing to speak out - and this can only be a positive thing - but there is clearly a worrying trend, not just in our figures, but from a range of agencies and bodies. More research is needed on why this sharp increase has occurred.

"Professor Eileen Munro highlighted in her review of social work the importance of acting quickly to tackle neglect, before problems spiral out of control. But social workers tell us they need better tools and training to help them identify and tackle neglect earlier. And parents need access to support to help them to change their neglectful behaviour. If we are to tackle this growing problem, these two issues must be addressed."

Callers to the NSPCC helpline described children going hungry and begging neighbours for food. Others were worried about children left home alone or outside in the cold for hours on end, or children whose parents had drink or drug addictions.

One caller to the helpline said: "The mother, she's an alcoholic and she's drinking 24/7, and the child who is three years old is not being looked after properly. I walked into the house, the mother was passed out and the door was wide open. The child was playing with the kettle and had got a bottle of bleach."

An email to the NSPCC read: "There are flies and maggots in some of the rooms. The house is full of unwashed clothes and mess. Their pet dog lives in their bathroom. The whole house stinks of dog's urine. The young child can't play anywhere as there is so much mess everywhere."

The NSPCC is testing a ground breaking new approach with local authorities to find out what is most effective in identifying, preventing and tackling neglect quickly. The charity is also working with social workers and other professionals to find out what extra support and training they need. This research includes a survey in partnership with Community Care that is live online now and the NSPCC is urging professionals working with neglect cases to take part.

Further reading:

Press release on media centre
Helpline Highlight
Priorities: Neglect
Information for professionals

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