Shock rise in child neglect

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CHILD neglect cases are on the rise across South Yorkshire, and are pressurising children’s services, warns a leading charity.

The warning comes as figures just released by the charity show neglect calls to its helpline have doubled over the past two years, and are now at record levels.

From April last year to March 2012, trained NSPCC counsellors on the 24-hour freephone service dealt with over 12,000 contacts from across the UK about neglect. And 1,056 of these were from Yorkshire and the Humber.

Of these latter cases, 827 were so serious that they required involvement from police or children’s services - a 22 per cent increase on referrals over the previous year.

There were 48 cases from the Barnsley borough, 47 from Doncaster and 42 from Rotherham. Another 77 were from Sheffield.

Typically, callers described children as going hungry and begging neighbours for food. Others were worried about children left alone or outside in the cold for hours, or about children whose parents had drink or drug addictions.

This rise in reports comes as local children’s services face unprecedented pressures, with more children than ever before being taken into care.

Last year 618 children across South Yorkshire were subject to child protection plans because they were at risk of harm from neglect – up from 549 the previous year. And recent statistics from CAFCASS, the organisation that represents children in care cases, revealed that in 2011 to 2012 the total number of care applications topped 10,000 for the first time.

The NSPCC is testing a new approach with local authorities now to find out how best to identify, prevent and tackle neglect quickly, and to identify the support that social workers and other professionals need.

Gordon Ratcliffe, NSPCC head of region in South Yorkshire, said: “The NSPCC is working closely with professionals and local government across the UK to find the best ways to identify and tackle neglect before it ruins children’s lives. And we want the public to keep raising the alarm.”

Anyone who thinks a child is being neglected, or suffering any kind of abuse, should contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, email help@nspcc.org.uk or report online at www.nspcc.org.uk/helpline or contact your local authority children’s service.