Hundreds talk to our helpline about neglect during the 12 days of Christmas

Last Christmas, our helpline responded to nearly 600 contacts mentioning child neglect. This year, Light for Every Childhood  aims to raise awareness of the subject and help more children. 

Neglect at ChristmasIn 2017/18 the NSPCC helpline handled nearly 20,000 calls and emails about child neglect. In the same year Police recorded nearly 17,000 cases of parents deliberately neglecting, mistreating or assaulting their children, this number has doubled over the last five years1.

Over Christmas, extended family members often contact our helpline after becoming concerned about a young relative they’ve spent time with.

Last year, we responded to 599 contacts related to neglect between Christmas Eve and 4 January 2018.

Neglect is the most common type of abuse affecting children in the UK2. This year, to raise awareness of the subject, we’ve launched Light For Every Childhood. UK landmarks including Houses of Parliament and the BT Tower have lit up in the NSPCC’s green in support.

"Over Christmas I spent time with my family and what I witnessed was really worrying. I learnt that the children have been left home alone on various occasions, and have also been allowed to get drunk and take drugs. They also have mental health problems. I think the whole family needs additional support."
Call to the NSPCC helpline from a concerned relative

Worried about a child?

Contact our trained helpline counsellors for help, advice and support.

0808 800 5000

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What are the signs of neglect?

Neglect happens when a child’s basic needs aren’t met. It can cause deep-rooted and lifelong physical and psychological harm for a child. 

Common signs and symptoms adults may notice in a child being neglected include:

    • poor appearance and hygiene
    • being left alone for a long time
    • having untreated injuries, medical and dental issues, skin sores, rashes or flea bites
    • they may have poor communication or social skills
    • they regularly seem hungry or turn up to school without any lunch money.

Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the NSPCC said:
Peter Wanless“Neglect doesn’t stop because it’s Christmas. The holidays can, in fact, magnify problems because children are cut-off from the wider community and their support network.

“This is why we’re appealing to the generous nature of the public to support Light For Every Childhood to help us be there for even more young people in need.”

Shine a light on neglect

We’re asking for donations to our helpline so our trained child protection professionals can answer more calls and help more neglected children at Christmas and throughout the year.

Just £5 pays for the helpline to answer a call about child neglect.

The NSPCC helpline is open seven days a week and can be contacted on 0808 800 5000, or by emailing

Donate now


Names and identifying features have been changed to protect identity. Photographs have been posed by models.


  1. 1 In 2017/18, the NSPCC helpline responded to a total of 65,067 contacts from individuals concerned about a child’s welfare.
    Neglect was the most common reason for contacting the helpline, mentioned in 19,937 contacts. This was 31% of contacts for the year.

    There were 16,939 child cruelty and neglect offences recorded by police in 2017/18, up from 7,965 in 2012/13.

    During the 12 days of Christmas 2017 (24/12/17 – 4/1/2018) the NSPCC helpline responded to 1,616 child welfare contacts. 599 were related to child neglect.
    The helpline referred 14,601 contacts about child neglect (73%) to external agencies in 2017/18.

  2. 2 Based on data from Department for Education, StatsWales, Children's Social Care Statistics (NI), and Scottish Government; Brandon, M. et al. (2013) Neglect and serious case reviews: a report from the university of East Anglia commissioned by NSPCC and NSPCC helpline data. 

    Neglect is the most common reason for a child to be the subject of a child protection plan or on a child protection register. It is also a concern in the majority of serious case reviews and is the most common reason why adults contact the NSPCC helpline.