The NSPCC is experiencing a surge in the number of emotional neglect and emotional abuse cases; including those so serious they require onward referral to the police and children’s services.
The charity’s anonymous helpline (0808 800 5000), which supports and offers advice to adults who are worried about a child, is referring nearly 50 per cent more emotional neglect and abuse cases on to statutory services compared to last year.
Helpline staff have assisted over 700 people in the West Midlands who have contacted the NSPCC about emotional neglect and abuse this year (2013/14) and 491 of these cases were so serious they have been referred to local authorities for further action compared to 319 last year (2012/13), an increase of 54 per cent.
The charity also revealed that helpline practitioners, who listen to people’s child welfare concerns and can take action on their behalf, are being contacted by more people than ever before. Over 60,000 people have been offered help and support by the helpline this year which is an increase of 20 per cent compared to last year.
The figures come as the government considers a new law to tackle the emotional neglect and abuse of children. The so called ‘Cinderella law’ would update the 1933 criminal offence of child cruelty to include emotional neglect and abuse as well as physical abuse.
Sandra McNair, NSPCC Midlands Regional Head of Service, said: “Emotional neglect and abuse cause real harm to children and we are supporting more people than ever before who want a safe, non-judgemental place in which to talk through their concerns. As a result of this we are able to recognise the most serious cases and are referring an unprecedented number of emotional neglect and abuse cases to children’s services and the police.
“We must ensure we support children’s services and that the police are given better powers to prosecute those who subject children to emotional neglect and abuse –that is why the NSPCC supports the proposed changes to the law to tackle this issue. But a law alone is not enough – what we really need to do is work together to prevent this abuse happening in the first place.”
Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, said: “This increase in calls from the public shows both the scale and seriousness of emotional abuse and a heightened awareness of it.
“Action for Children has campaigned for three years to include emotional as well as physical harm in child neglect laws because while emotional abuse may not leave visible scars, its impact on young people can be devastating, leading to life-long mental health problems and, in extreme cases, to suicide.
“A new law would help children living in cruel and unbearable situations.”
In an example of an emotional abuse call to the NSPCC - a member of the public contacted the helpline with concerns about a teenager who was routinely being singled out and belittled by his step-father. The step-father would become aggressive after drinking and the caller had heard him shout and swear at his step-son and call him ‘useless’. The teenager's academic performance was suffering and he’d been suspended for disruptive behaviour. The helpline counsellor was able to reassure the caller they could remain anonymous and had taken an important step in protecting the teenager. The conversation enabled the counsellor to ascertain a fuller picture of the teenager’s life and refer the case to children’s services.
With the summer holidays fast approaching, and more people coming into contact with children, the NSPCC is urging people to be extra vigilant to the signs of abuse and neglect.
Anyone who has concerns about a child or wants advice can contact the NSPCC for free 24 hours a day, by calling 0808 800 5000, emailing email@example.com, texting 88858 or using an online reporting form. They can choose to remain anonymous if they wish.