Belfast Telegraph

Child cruelty and neglect cases in Northern Ireland up by 350% in five years

By Aoife Moore

Cases of child cruelty and neglect in Northern Ireland have risen by almost 350% in the last five years, figures suggest.

The NSPCC said 579 child cruelty and neglect offences were recorded by police in 2017/18, up from 132 in 2012/13.

Reports to the police included extreme cases of when a parent or carer wilfully assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, abandoned or exposed their child to serious harm.

The number of offences recorded by police is mirrored by the number of calls made to the NSPCC helpline - totalling 19,937 last year about children suffering neglect - with three quarters referred urgently to police or children's services.

One NSPCC helpline practitioner, Tracey Hamer, highlighted that not all neglect may be wilful.

"The police went out to do a welfare check, and later told me that the mum had been found unwell and violently vomiting and unable to care for her little girl, who was three years old," she said.

"The house was in a state of disrepair and the kitchen worktops were covered in dirty crockery, with mould on them. The washing machine was broken, and the mum said that water would come up through the pipes when she tried to use it, so she couldn't clean any clothes."

In 2017, 1,045 children from Northern Ireland were assessed as facing an ongoing risk of significant harm from neglect.

Neil Anderson, head of NSPCC NI, said: "It's unclear exactly why the number of child neglect and cruelty offences in NI has risen so dramatically."

He added: "Whatever the reasons for the increase, child neglect is everybody's problem and we all need to be aware of vulnerable children and be ready to report it to the NSPCC or the authorities if we are concerned for their safety or well-being."

Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline seven days a week on 0808 800 5000, or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

Belfast Telegraph

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