Child cruelty offences in England highest in a decade

75% rise in child cruelty and neglect cases recorded by police in the last 10 years revealed in our "How safe are our children?" report

Child cruelty and neglect cases recorded by police have risen by 75% in the last decade. Our annual overview of child abuse and protection data, How safe are our children?, reveals:

  • 8,506 child cruelty and neglect offences recorded by police in England in 2014-15
  • compared with 4,855 in 2005-06.

It's unclear why the figures have risen so dramatically, but greater public awareness and improvements in how police record offences could be factors.

Calls to our helpline

There were over 16,000 contacts to our helpline about children suffering neglect last year. Adults called with fears about:

  • children who were starving and dirty
  • young people who lived in rat-infested homes
  • parents who were drunk or left their children to fend for themselves.

Neglect is a factor in 60% of serious case reviews

Explanation: Based on analysis of 139 serious case reviews undertaken in England from 2009-2011. Serious case reviews are commissioned when a child dies, or is seriously injured, as a result of abuse or neglect.

Find about more about serious case reviews.

Neglect is the main concern in 48% of child protection plans in England

Explanation: There were 51,080 children who were the subject of a child protection plan in England on 31 March 2017. 24,590 children were under the category of neglect. This equates to 48% of all the children who were the subject of a child protection plan in England.

These figures represent children identified and assessed as being at ongoing risk of significant harm from neglect.

See also Indicator 14 in How safe are our children? 2018 and our summary of child protection register statistics in England (PDF).

View the trend graph for Composition of child protection plans in England (PNG).

""Sometimes I feel like eating pet food because it’s all there is in the house. But I just drink water to make me feel full up instead. My teacher has asked why I’m dressed in dirty clothes and why I never have any lunch money and I don’t know what to say. Sometimes I feel killing myself will be the only way out.""
14 year-old boy

The effects of abuse

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said:
"Neglect is the most common form of abuse in the UK and can wreak havoc on a child’s brain development, emotional well-being, ability to form relationships, and mental health.

"These children are more likely to suffer from depression and post-traumatic disorder, and even suicidal thoughts. For some, neglect can be fatal.

"These levels of neglect simply do not belong to the 21st century. Many of these lonely, frightened, children have to resort to desperate measures to survive after being left to fend for themselves and it shames our nation that these numbers are so high.

"It's an unacceptable situation which must be remedied. And we can only do that by looking out for vulnerable children and making sure they are given the right support to prevent longer term damage to the lives of those who have survived the horror of such neglect and cruelty."

Are you there for children's mental health?

We need to make sure every child always has a place to turn - night and day. Sign our petition calling on the government to help our Childline service be there for every child.

Sign the petition


Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child's basic needs. It's dangerous and children can suffer serious and long-term harm.
Read more about neglect

Donate now

In the average primary school class, at least 2 children have suffered abuse or neglect. Donate now and help protect children today and prevent abuse from happening tomorrow.

Donate now

Contact our press office

Contact our national and regional press offices for enquiries about our work or to request interviews.

020 7825 2514

Contact our press office