Record rise in reported child abuse
The number of serious child abuse cases being referred to police or social services following calls to a national helpline reached an all-time high last year, a children's charity has said.
NSPCC counsellors referred a record 16,385 serious cases to police or social services in 2010/11, a 37% rise from the previous year and the biggest increase ever recorded by the charity.
It comes after research found one in five secondary school children have been severely abused or neglected during childhood.
Almost a million children aged 11 to 17 in the UK were affected, with children being beaten up, hit with weapons, raped or seriously neglected, the NSPCC survey showed.
The charity called for earlier and more effective intervention in child cruelty cases and urged people to take swift action to report any concerns about a child being maltreated.
John Cameron, head of the NSPCC Helpline, said: "We must pick up on children's problems as early as we can to stop their abuse. Social workers cannot be in the community all the time. But members of the public can be their eyes and ears."
The record rise was fuelled by an 81% increase in the number of cases of suspected child neglect, up from 3,562 to 6,438 cases.
A further 4,113 cases of reported physical abuse, 1,520 cases of sexual abuse and 2,932 cases of emotional abuse were also referred to police or social services, the figures showed.
Almost one in two (46%) of those who contacted the helpline had their concerns passed on to the authorities, up from 39% the previous year.
And the number of child cruelty cases referred following concerns from neighbours and members of the public rose 60% to 12,296 from 7,708 the previous year.