New report shows teenagers at heightened risk of some types of abuse offences compared to younger children

We're calling on government to ensure recovery support and services are in place following concerns lockdown put many children and teenagers at even greater risk of harm.

For the first time, our ‘How safe are our children? 2020’ report has revealed the scale of abuse against teenagers, and highlights their heightened risk of experiencing physical and sexual abuse offences compared to younger children.

The report also reveals that the NSPCC Helpline received an average of 1,066 contacts a month from April to July from adults with concerns that a child or young person was being physically abused - up 53% on the pre-lockdown average.1

The wide-ranging report explains that, compared to younger children, available data from the UK nations shows rates of police-recorded offences against teenagers across the UK are:

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  • 4 times as high for physical abuse offences
  • 9 times as high for online grooming offences
  • 6 times as high for sexual abuse offences.2

Across the UK, teenagers are twice as likely to be in care3, but are less likely to be the subject of a child protection plan or on a child protection register to support them compared to younger children.4

Despite the extent of serious abuse against older children in crime statistics, studies have shown the ability of teenagers to look after themselves is often overestimated and there can be a tendency for professionals to focus on teenager’s behaviour rather than the causes behind it.


Recovery planning and support services needed for young people 

Following the huge impact coronavirus has had on young people, we're calling on Government to move forward with recovery planning and ensure support and services are in place for all children who need them. 

Recovery measures should include: 

  • Government funding and support packages for schools to ensure they are ready to help all children and young people who need it as they return to the classroom – particularly those who may have suffered abuse, neglect or other traumatic experiences during the lockdown
  • Support for teachers so they can confidently help children, including training on child development science and how behavioural problems or difficulties with their emotions can be a sign of trauma.
  •  Governments also need to back multi-agency partnerships between local authorities, NHS and police to work with schools to review support for vulnerable children.

    "No one has been left unaffected by the uncertainty we are living through. For adolescents, already navigating perhaps the most challenging period of their lives, the impact is likely to be significant and, in some cases, lasting. As part of their recovery and rebuilding planning, Government needs to make sure services are in place and ready to help so no child or young person who has suffered is left without support. Young people’s lives must not be derailed by the pandemic. "
    Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO

Worried about a child?

If you're worried about a child or young person, you can contact the NSPCC helpline for support and advice for free - call us on 0808 800 5000 or contact us online.

Children can contact Childline any time to get support themselves.

Get support

"I am concerned about the children of a family I know. The parents physically fight all the time and the father takes drugs and drinks alcohol and regularly is under the influence. The eldest child, who is 14, is finding it all too much being at home. He spoke to his school about how he felt and they have spoken to the parents but as a result his father has hit him which has left big lumps on his head. I am so worried about him and the younger children.*"
Adult who contacted the NSPCC Helpline

We're working hard to ensure we're still here for children. Will you help us?


References

  1. 1. There was an average of 1,066 contacts to the NSPCC Helpline about physical abuse in the months April, May, June and July compared to an average of 696 a month in 2020 pre-lockdown. These calls relate to all children not just adolescents.

  2. 2. Comparisons on rates of abuse offences are based on recorded police crime data. Rates and ages vary across the UK. Physical abuse offence data is for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and compares rates for 11- to 18-year-olds with under-11-year-olds. Sexual offence data is for the whole of the UK. For England, Wales and Scotland it compares rates for sexual offences which by their definition can only be perpetrated against 13- to 15-year-olds with offences which can only be perpetrated against under-13-year-olds. For Northern Ireland, it compares rates for all sexual offences against 11- to 18-year-olds with under-11-year-olds. Online grooming offence data is for the whole of the UK and relates to the offence of sexual communication with a child in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and communicating indecently with a child in Scotland. England and Wales data compares rates of offences against 12- to 15-year-olds with under-12-year-olds, Northern Ireland data compares rates of offences against 11- to 15-year-olds with under-11-year-olds and Scotland data compares rates of offences against 13- to 15-year-olds with under-13-year-olds.

  3. 3. Across the UK, older children are twice as likely to be in care. Nations rates vary from 1.4 to 2.3 times higher. This is with the exception of some nations where infants are most likely to be in care and is at any point in time rather than new children coming into the care system.

  4. 4. Child protection plan and register data is for the whole of the UK. Data for England compares the rate of 10- to 17-year-olds who are the subject of a child protection plan with under- 10-year-olds, data for Wales compares the rate of 10- to 17-year-olds on a child protection register with under-10-year-olds, data for Northern Ireland compares the rate of 12- to 17- year-olds on a child protection register with under-12-year-olds and data for Scotland compares the rate of 11- to 17-year-olds on a child protection register with under-11-year-olds.