Christmas warning as child abuse contacts to NSPCC helpline rises 43%

Concerns about child abuse have soared since national lockdown measures were first introduced. 


Since the beginning of the first  lockdown, the average number of contacts made to our helpline about abuse has gone up.  Analysis of our data from April to November shows that the level of concern about emotional abuse, neglect, and physical abuse remain well above the pre-pandemic average. The latest figures show that the number of contacts from people concerned about child abuse is 43% higher than before the first lockdown. 1



Since April, we have received:

  • 31,359 contacts from adults anxious about child abuse or neglect 2
  • an 82% rise in the number of contacts made about children experiencing emotional abuse, compared to pre-lockdown levels 3 
  • over a third more contacts from adults worried about children experiencing neglect and physical abuse, the two most common forms of abuse mentioned. 

As a result, we referred half (50%) of the contacts from concerned adults to external agencies like the police and social services to take further action.

"At Childline we know how important it is that we are here for children over the Christmas period. We are there for young people when they need the service the most and for many - Christmas will be that time. The pandemic has had a huge impact on young people and for the many who will have nowhere else to turn, we will provide a vital listening ear."
Pauline / Volunteer counsellor at Childline

Now, with Christmas almost here, we are sharing these findings as a warning that Christmas can be a very difficult time for children suffering abuse and neglect, and the impact of the Coronavirus could put even more children at risk.

"I am ringing with concerns for 3 children who I believe are being emotionally abused and neglected."

"They are really worried that their mother's drinking will get worse over Christmas, as it has done in the past. I fear they could be right as her drinking is becoming worse and she has been drunk more frequently in recent months. They need urgent help."

A concerned adult calling the NSPCC helpline

As well as urging the public to be extra vigilant during the Christmas holidays, the NSPCC is urging the government to ensure children and families can get the help they need in the short and long term. To avoid this crisis having a lasting impact on a generation of children, it is crucial that the government invests long term funding to support them to recover from adverse and traumatic experiences during lockdown and to rebuild their lives. 

The charity’s team of professionals working on its helpline for concerned adults and the dedicated volunteer counsellors at Childline will all play a vital role in being here for children this Christmas.

Kamaljit Thandi, Head of NSPCC helpline said:

"It’s no secret that this Christmas is going to be a very different one, and for thousands of children, being stuck at home for the holidays will be a terrifying thought. At the NSPCC, we know how important it is that people have the opportunity to speak up when they think a child is at risk of abuse and neglect. Our helpline for adults and Childline will be open every day over the festive period."

We're calling on government

In April, the government announced it was investing £1.6 million to help fund the NSPCC’s helpline. On the 8 December 2020, the government also announced it was providing a further £190,000 for the helpline. This will support the NSPCC to continue to respond to the public’s concerns over Christmas and the New Year.

If you are concerned over the Christmas period

NSPCC Helpline

Contact our Helpline by calling 0808 800 5000 or emailing [email protected]


Young people can also:

  • contact Childline on 0800 1111 or via 1-2-1 chat on Childline will be open every day and night over the festive period.
  • get support from other people their age in the online community via message-boards. They can also use expert resources to help them through any issues they're oncerned about.
  • visit the Childline’s Calm Zone which been a great source of support for children and young people during the pandemic.



Names have been changed to protect identities. Any photographs are posed by models.


  1. 1. Before the first lockdown (6 Jan 2020 – 22 March 2020) there was an average of 2,748 contacts a month to the NSPCC helpline about abuse or neglect. Since the first lockdown began (1 April 2020 – 30 November 2020) there has been an average of 3,920 contacts a month to the NSPCC helpline about abuse and neglect. This is an increase of 43%.

  2. 2.

    Main concern Advice Referral Referral update Total child welfare contacts
    Emotional abuse 4,286 3,529 436 8,251
    Neglect 3,685 4,406 491 8,582
    Physical abuse 3,531 4,252 519 8,302
    Sexual abuse (contact) 3,256 1,393 147 4,796
    Sexual abuse (online) 1,053 323 52 1,428
    Total CW cotnacts related to abuse 15,811 13,903 1,645 31,359
  3. 3. Child welfare contacts related to abuse are a combination of main concerns and sub concerns: “Emotional Abuse”, "Neglect", "Physical Abuse", "Sexual abuse", and "Sexual Abuse (online)."