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Seven in 10 calls to helpline referred to police and councils, NSPCC reveals

Published 13/10/2016

The NSPCC received 33,333 calls in 2015/16 that were referred on to other agencies
The NSPCC received 33,333 calls in 2015/16 that were referred on to other agencies

Almost seven in every 10 calls to the NSPCC's helpline over the last year were serious enough to be referred to the police and councils amid rising reports of neglect and physical abuse of children.

The charity received 33,333 calls from worried adults - around 100 a day - in 2015/16 that were deemed so important they were escalated to agencies such as the social services and police.

This accounted for around 70% of 48,949 calls to the helpline, 40% more than the 23,733 in 2012/13, when the Jimmy Savile scandal first came to light.

Concerns included fears about young people who were victims of sexual abuse and children living in squalid conditions, along with concerns about starving toddlers and youngsters trapped in slavery.

Calls about neglect that were referred on rocketed by 45% since 2012/13, up from 9,803 to 14,169, while escalations over fears of physical abuse rose by the same proportion, from 5,783 to 8,401.

Worries over emotional abuse have also seen the number of calls to the NSPCC that were passed on rise by 43%, from 3,629 in 2012/13 to 5,195 over the last year.

And in the last two years the helpline has referred 507 reports of slavery to local authorities.

Earlier this month the charity revealed its helpline received 10 calls a day on average from people worried about children living in a dangerous or risky home.

The charity said the figures showed a growing refusal from the public to turn a blind eye over child welfare, and reflected a greater demand for action to prevent child abuse.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: "These figures reveal a nation that is more alive to the issues of child abuse following recent high profile scandals and the ongoing investigation into non-recent child abuse.

"They have become increasingly concerned and aware of the tell-tale signs of abuse and neglect in children and our helpline is an invaluable service for people worried about the safety of a young person.

"But when people are worried, and feel they need to speak to someone, they can be reassured they will be listened to and taken seriously."

John Cameron, director of helplines at the NSPCC, said it was impossible to say whether the rise in referred calls meant levels of child abuse was increasing.

But he said the spike may be explained by society's better understanding of what child abuse actually means.

Mr Cameron told the Press Association: "The public are becoming less tolerant of how people are treating children. They are more likely to report now because there is a greater level of awareness and an understanding that things have to be done, and there is a responsibility for people to report.

"I also think that children are beginning to get it now and are beginning to speak out more. It's more difficult to keep children silent as a result of ill-treatment, they're more likely to go a trusted adult who will subsequently report it as well."

Mr Cameron said the definition of abuse had widened from traditional perceptions, such as children being dirty or allegations of sexual abuse.

He said: " Now people recognise where children are being emotionally ill-treated, children who are witnessing domestic violence, online abuse - there are greater opportunities for children to become victims of abuse.

"These new threats that are around, it all adds up. I don't think there's a single causal agent."

The NSPCC's helpline is on 0808 800 5000, by texting 88858 or visiting www.nspcc.org.uk.

It comes as over 13,500 people who were worried about their online behaviour called the Lucy Faithfull Foundation child protection charity to help them to stop looking at sexual images of children.

In its first year of operation there were 12,057 people who tapped in to its' Stop it Now website along with 1,615 people who contacted the charity for help.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey, of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said: "Children in these images are abused when an image is first taken and repeatedly victimised every time that image is viewed.

"In 2013, it was estimated that 50,000 people were viewing these images but we fear that number could have increased significantly."

Arrests are taking place but more needs to be done to prevent the original abuse. He urged anyone who is looking at indecent images of children to "get help or get caught".

Press Association

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