EVERY year, the NSPCC collates the number of child cruelty and neglect offences recorded by police forces across England.
Latest figures show the number of reported cases of children subjected to these offences by adults have doubled since 2017/18, with 29,422 child cruelty offences recorded in 2022/23. For many forces, including West Yorkshire, the increase is even higher.
Away from the figures on spreadsheets, even a brief glance at the news reveals the tragic human stories behind the numbers. Just last week, a woman and her partner were found guilty of the murder of 18-month-old Alfie Phillips.
These devastating court cases come as the child protection system continues to struggle under substantial pressures in recent years, particularly since the pandemic. In 2022/23, children’s social care workers completed 655,000 assessments to determine whether young people needed support and the NSPCC’s Childline service continues to hear directly from children experiencing abuse and neglect.
One 12-year-old child told counsellors: “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 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’s happening but they don’t really do much. I can’t take it anymore.”
Families are struggling, but a properly funded child protection system can identify risks to children and take swift action. The NSPCC is calling on the Government to speed up their pledge to reform the child protection system, giving practitioners across agencies support and training to work with families. Along with Barnardo’s, Action for Children, The Children’s Society and The National Children’s Bureau, the NSPCC is asking politicians to commit to wholesale reform of children’s social care, backed by significant investment in early intervention and prevention.
These statistics 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. Reforming the child protection system will give earlier support and stop families’ problems before they escalate.
The NSPCC’s Helpline last year received almost 40,000 contacts worried about a child’s wellbeing. Calls and emails can be anonymous and could help save a child’s life. Call 0808 8005000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org