Identifying neglect early can help children and families get the right support
Neglect is far easier to stop when it is caught early and most families can be supported to turn around their problems. But longer term neglect can cause lifelong issues and is far harder to tackle.
NSPCC data shows that three quarters of contacts to the charity's helpline over the last three years from people in Birmingham about neglect were already so serious or contained crucial information, that they had to be immediately referred to the police or social services.
Since 2010, neglect has been the reason for over a third of child protection plans in Birmingham and the city isn't alone in this - neglect is the most common reason for a child to be the subject of a child protection plan or on a child protection register in the UK.
Jane Held, Independent Chair of Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board, said:
"Birmingham is a large and vibrant city and is home to approximately 287,000 children under the age of 19, one of the youngest populations of any European city.
"As a Safeguarding Board we want all children in the City to grow up safe, healthy, happy and well cared for emotionally as well as physically"
Independent Chair of Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board
"It is also a city with areas of significant deprivation with only 6 of the 40 wards in the city having fewer children living in poverty than the national average.
"Most families, including families living in poverty, parent their children very well, often despite the odds, but many find poverty the final straw. We know that parents want to care for their children well, but many face problems with domestic violence, mental illness, drugs and alcohol misuse, with homelessness, unemployment, and debt and struggle to care for themselves, no matter for their children.
"As a Safeguarding Board we want all children in the City to grow up safe, healthy, happy and well cared for emotionally as well as physically. The evidence in Birmingham is that too many do not get the help they need early enough to stop the early signs of neglect. That means too many children have experienced tough and difficult lives for too long, before they get the help they need.
"All the partners on the Board are working together to develop better more extensive 'early help and family support' services so that help can be given earlier. Social Workers know that early help will reduce the need for them to intervene and families prefer to get help early rather than face state intervention.
"Because of the scale of these issues in the city, it is crucial we do not accept poor parenting but look to help parents cope better. If anyone is concerned about a child, please make that phone call."
Being a parent isn't always easy
Sandra McNair, NSPCC Midlands Regional Head of Services for children and families, said:
"Most children in Birmingham are well cared for by people who love them very much. However, there are too many children and young people being neglected, many of whom may be suffering in silence, utterly reliant upon the adults around them to notice their distress and take action to put a stop to it.
"Our experience shows that with the right early help, at the right time, many parents and carers can improve their behaviour and make the changes needed to protect their children's futures"
NSPCC Midlands Regional Head of Services for children and families
"Neglect is a very complex issue and we know being a parent isn't always easy. Our experience shows that with the right early help, at the right time, many parents and carers can improve their behaviour and make the changes needed to protect their children's futures.
"Families need help when problems first arise, before neglect becomes entrenched, and that's why this campaign is all about helping people to recognise the signs and seek support straight away either for themselves, a neighbour or friend, or someone in the community they are worried about.
"At the NSPCC, we believe every childhood is worth fighting for. That's why I urge anybody who has concerns about a child to put their anxieties aside about speaking to a professional and contact the NSPCC helpline for help and advice.
"Letting our team of experienced child protection counsellors listen to your concerns about a child will never be a mistake - they have the knowledge and experience to decide if a child is being neglected and how to help if they are. The helpline is confidential and you can be anonymous. Just a few minutes of your time to talk through your worries, could make a positive difference to a child for the rest of their life."