Helpline users 'delay speaking out'
Almost a third of callers to a children's abuse helpline have waited more than six months to speak out.
In 2011/12, the NSPCC responded to 691 calls in Northern Ireland, a significant increase on the previous year. Neglect was the leading cause of referrals.
Margaret Gallagher, local campaigns co-ordinator for the charity in Northern Ireland, said delays in reporting concerns may contribute to undue distress and suffering.
"We understand that it's incredibly difficult to pick up the phone, and we are really grateful to those people who do take action when they have concerns. People clearly have the desire to act but are unsure how or when to do it," she said.
"What we would emphasise is that trained professionals assess the information given and either give advice and support to the caller or make a referral to children's services or police if required."
According to the NSPCC, 32% of Northern Ireland callers to its helpline last year whose contact caused a referral to police or children's services waited more than six months to speak out. A further 21% delayed seeking help for between one and six months.
In 2011/12, 353 of the contacts received by the helpline, involving 717 children, resulted in referrals to police or children's services in Northern Ireland.
Neglect was the leading cause for referrals (138 cases, 3%); it accounted for 12% of cases where the NSPCC offered advice (40 contacts).
A total of 14% of referrals (50) were about sexual abuse.
This is higher than the UK average, which was 10%.