Belfast Telegraph

Baby welfare 'crisis point' warning

Children's services staff in Northern Ireland responded to 22 emergency calls in the last year involving babies just months old.

One regularly unfed infant was found dirty with a severe nappy rash and had been left crying for long periods by a mother who could not cope without support, according to to a new NSPCC report.

Staff were alerted after calls to the organisation's helpline. Over the last 12 months there were 22 referrals with concerns for babies aged less than a year old because of fears for their safety and wellbeing.

One in five babies in Northern Ireland are living with a parent who has a high risk of depression and serious anxiety. One in 100 mothers and one in 20 fathers of children yet to reach their first birthday are estimated to consume hazardous levels of alcohol, the report said.

Figures by the children's charity also revealed that one in 60 mothers with infants of that age claim they have suffered force at some stage from their partners.

But despite the high level of reporting to the NSPCC helpline, the charity believes far more babies at risk are not getting the help they need. More needs to be done to prevent situations reaching a crisis point where serious action is required.

National head of service for the NSPCC in Northern Ireland Neil Anderson said the public had been coming forward when they feared a child was in danger. But they were also calling on the Executive at Stormont to back the NSPCC to stop the abuse and neglect by investing in early intervention and frontline services.

He added: "To help keep families safe, it is vital that problems are picked up early and for appropriate support to be put in place. Services need to think about the whole family - not only helping parents deal with drink and drug problems, for example, but also ensuring they are able to care for their baby. Services must be available before it reaches crisis point."

The NSPCC's free 24-hour helpline is staffed by experienced child protection helpline counsellors who can be contacted in confidence on 0808 800 5000, text 88858, or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

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