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Number of at-risk children soars

The number of children at risk of abuse in the UK has increased by 80% since 2002, according to a new report.

A total of 48,300 were on child protection plans (CPPs) in England at the end of March last year, the NSPCC said.

This was an increase of 88% compared to 2002.

Data shows that the number in the child protection system has also increased in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over the same period, with an average rise of 80% for the whole of the UK.

In England almost half (43%) of CPPs were administered for neglect, a third for emotional abuse and 10% for physical abuse. One in 20 (5%) were introduced because of sexual abuse.

Research also showed that the number of children being referred to social services in England reached a record high of 570,800 in 2013/14.

Children are made the subjects of protection plans or registers when officials deem them to be at risk of harm. Referrals to social services are the first stage in the child protection process and are made by authorities such as the police and schools or individuals who are concerned about some aspect of a youngster's life.

The NSPCC has published its annual report How Safe Are Our Children?, which draws together data from a variety of sources.

Other statistics cited in the study are:

:: Cruelty and neglect offences against under-16s in England and Northern Ireland are at their highest for a decade.

:: One in 15 children aged between 10 and 15 in England and Wales have been victims of violent crimes.

:: The number of adults contacting NSPCC'S helpline to report concerns about a child's welfare jumped by a fifth in 2014/15.

:: Family relationships and "low mood" are the most common reasons for children contacting ChildLIne, which made 3,714 referrals to authorities in 2014/15, a 72% increase compared to the previous year.

:: In 2014/15 cyberbullying was raised in 4,000 ChildLine counselling sessions, while "sexting" was mentioned in more than 1,000.

Launching the report in central London today, NSPCC chief exectuive Peter Wanless said Britain faces a "watershed moment" on child abuse.

"These startling figures must not be ignored," he said. "The challenges in keeping future generations safe are myriad and complex."

Research published by the charity yesterday showed the number of child sex offences recorded by police increased by more than a third last year.

In a speech today Mr Wanless said the trend was in part because of high profile cases such as the Jimmy Savile scandal.

"This is welcome, but we must ensure that when children and adults speak up about the abuse they suffered, the support they need to rebuild their lives is available.

"Too often this remains sorely lacking."

Karen Bradley, who was appointed to the newly created post of minister for preventing abuse and exploitation at the Home Office, said more and more young people are reporting their experiences of abuse.

She said: "As much as this is an encouraging sign of the times, it is also an immense challenge.

"Because reporting that experience to police is never the end of it, because the damage of those experiences is so hard to undo and because it is increasingly clear that far too many children are being damaged in the first place.

"That is why protecting children is a priority for this Government and why we continue to do all we can to stop children being abused and protect victims and survivors."


From Belfast Telegraph