106% increase in child cruelty and neglect offences in England in the past 5 years

New data shows recorded offences of adults neglecting, mistreating, or assaulting children have doubled over the last 5 years.



  • Reported cases of children in England being subjected to cruelty or neglect have risen year on year, doubling over 5 years.
  • This rise comes as the child protection system faces significant pressures.
  • We're calling on the government to invest in a well-resourced child protection system that can respond effectively to reports of cruelty and neglect.


We are concerned that the number of child cruelty offences is increasing steadily year on year. Our analysis of Freedom of Information data from police forces in England has found there were 29,405 offences recorded between April 2022 and March 2023, increasing from 14,263 offences recorded between April 2017 and March 2018.

These figures come after a series of court cases into the deaths of babies and children, including 18-month-old Alfie Phillips, whose mother and partner were found guilty of his murder last week.

A well-resourced and effective child protection system, that identifies risks to children as early as possible and is able to take swift action, is vital to help improve the lives of children and young people. 

Childline counsellors hear directly from children about the impact that abuse and neglect is having on their lives. 

A 12-year-old child who contacted the service said*:

“I can’t stop crying and I don’t know who to talk to about this. My mum isn’t looking after me properly. She never has any money, there is never food in the house, and she doesn’t take me to school. She takes drugs a lot and always asks me for money to get more. After she’s taken drugs, she’s in a really bad mood and is mean to me.

"Some of my relatives know what is happening but they don’t really do much. I just can’t take it anymore.”

The child protection system and the government

We are calling on the current government to push forward their plans to reform the child protection system, and ensure that practitioners are supported and equipped with the best possible skills and expertise to work directly with families and share information effectively. 

Currently, the frontline of child protection, including health, policing and children's services, are experiencing increasing costs and high demand.

The child protection system has been under increasing pressure over the last few years, particularly since the pandemic. In 2022/23, more than 655,000 child in need assessments were completed by children's social care to determine whether a child needs support from a service.

Also, England's largest councils have reported that they are overspending on their budgets by £600 million due to 'uncontrollable' spending pressures driving up the cost of of delivering services to vulnerable children.

This is straining the child protection system, leaving those who work with families unequipped to adequately respond when things reach crisis point.

That's why, alongside Barnardo's, Action for Children, The Children's Society, and The National Children's Bureau, we are asking politicians to commit to the wholesale reform of children's social care, backed by significant investment in early intervention and prevention, to improve the lives of babies, children and young people.

What to do if you're worried about a child

Last year we received almost 40,000 contacts from adults concerned about the wellbeing of a child due to them being exposed to or experiencing abuse or neglect. 

If you're concerned about a child's safety or wellbeing, please contact our helpline by emailing [email protected] or by calling 0808 800 5000. We also have pages on our website with information about different types of abuse including neglect.

Children can visit the Childline website for information and advice surrounding abuse or any other concerns they might have. They can call Childline on 0800 1111 or message a counsellor on the 1-2-1 chat service

If someone is in danger, or it's an emergency, please call 999.

Visit our Helpline page

Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive said:

“These latest child cruelty figures are a stark wake-up call that our current system is struggling to prevent the horrifying abuse and neglect happening to some of the youngest and most vulnerable in our society.

“The government has pledged to reform the child protection system to provide earlier support for babies, children and young people and stop families’ problems escalating to crisis point. The figures underline why it is urgent that these changes are delivered at pace alongside significant investment.

“We can not afford for this to be delayed any longer as there is a real danger we will continue to see these offences spiral upwards if significant change doesn’t happen.

“Through reform and investment, politicians can turn these figures around to ensure babies, children and young people don’t experience the scourge of abuse and neglect and, instead, can live safe, happy and healthy childhoods.”


  • We sent Freedom of Information requests to police forces in England requesting the number of child cruelty offences (home office offence code: 11A) they recorded in 2022/23. Of the 40 police forces, 36 responded while 4 forces have not responded. The data revealed that police recorded 29,422 offences last year.
  • This information was compared like-for-like with child cruelty offences FOI requests collected by the charity over the last five years. Of the police forces that could be directly compared, 29,405 offences were recorded between April 2022 and March 2023 and 14,263 offences were recorded between April 2017 and March 2018.
  • 11A offences are given to any person aged 16 years or above who has responsibility for any child or young person under that age, and wilfully assaults, ill-treats (whether physically or otherwise), neglects, abandons, or exposes a child/young person, or causes or procures the child/young person to be subjected to the above, in a manner likely to cause them unnecessary suffering or injury to health (whether the suffering or injury is of a physical or a psychological nature).
  • Higher recorded cruelty offences do not necessarily reflect high prevalence of crimes, but could be explained by better recording, greater awareness of what abuse is, and survivors feeling more confident in coming forward.
  • Data from police forces cannot be compared due to the variation in geographical location and population that police forces cover along with varying recording practices.
  • More than 655,000 child in need assessments were completed by children’s social care to determine whether a child requires support from a service.
  • England’s largest councils face overspending their budgets by over £600m this year, as ‘uncontrollable’ spending pressures drive up the cost of delivering services to vulnerable children.
  • Between April 2022 and March 2023 the NSPCC Helpline dealt with 39,822 child welfare contacts where the main concern was neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse/exploitation (contact & online), domestic abuse or emotional abuse.
  • Court cases into the deaths of babies and children this year include: 15-month-old Jacob Lennon (verdict in May 2023), 10-month-old Jacob Crouch (verdict in August 2023), five-month-old Ava Mae Collard (verdict in July 2023), 10-month-old Finley Boden (verdict in May 2023), and nine-year-old Alfie Steele (verdict in June 2023). All the deaths occurred between 2019 and 2021 and represent a small number of the full scale of child deaths - particularly during lockdown in 2020 when 36 children died in the UK in instances where abuse or neglect is known or suspected.
  • In November 2023, five of the leading children’s charities announced they had come together to call for the next UK Government to put babies, children and young people at the heart of Government policy making, backed by a step-change in investment to transform childhoods across the UK. Read more here: https://childrenatthetable.org.uk/

* Snapshots are based on real Childline service users but are not necessarily direct quotes. All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person involved.

For further information please contact the NSPCC press office on 020 23772 9722 or email [email protected]