Figures from the NSPCC show neglect offences have risen by a fifth in the last year alone

Children’s charity NSPCC has analysed police data over the last five years and found cases of child cruelty and neglect have risen every year. In 2018/19 there were 20,024 offences recorded compared to 9,518 in 2013/14.

These police reports included extreme cases when children were deliberately assaulted, abandoned, neglected or exposed to serious harm. To raise awareness of these rising numbers, the charity has launched its Christmas appeal, Light For Every Childhood.

The appeal is calling for donations so the NSPCC can support children suffering at Christmas and throughout the rest of the year. The charity is the only service for children available 24/7 over the festive period and it needs further support to continue into 2020.

Showing support for the appeal, Battersea Power Station recently lit up in the charity’s trademark green.

Looking into why cases of neglect are increasing, there are a number of potential causes. Better police recording could have a part to play as well as cuts in funding that make it harder for local authorities to offer early intervention services that help tackle causes of neglect.

When local authorities can step in, they often do so before many of these cases are reported as a crime. Because of this, looking at the number of reported cases doesn’t show the full picture of abuse happening in the UK. In 2017/18 there were 29,113 children in the UK either on a child protection plan or a register for concerns involving neglect.

CEO of NSPCC, Peter Wanless has commented to say the drastic rise in numbers is disturbing.

“Greater public awareness and improvements in police recording could be factors in this continuous increase, but deeper societal issues such as increasing pressure on parents and a lack of investment in early intervention services, are leaving more children vulnerable and exposed to pain and suffering.

“Whatever the reasons for the rise, cruelty to children is never ok. It is vital that children always have a place they can go to seek help and support, day and night. Childline never stops and never sleeps, but for this to continue we need the public’s support and to back our ‘Light for Every Childhood’ Appeal.”

Discussing the impact of childhood neglect on adulthood, counsellor Vickie Norris MSc (Psych), PG Dip, BA (Hons), BABCP accredited says neglect can impact the brain’s positive affect (PA) system.

“It is now believed that parental neglect and abuse may fail to help this system mature, and indeed abuse and neglect can cause problems in brain maturation. The threat systems for these children may be overstimulated, making them more sensitive to threat and less emotionally regulated — not least because they lack the soothing experiences/memories that form the foundation for self-soothing.

“While soothing and affiliation lowers stress and cortisol, shame, negative evaluation and criticism by others is now known to be one of the most powerful elicitors of cortisol stress responses. The take home message therefore is that we have a specific affect processing system that relates to our feelings of being soothed, handling crises, and feeling safe. And for the best chance for this to develop sufficiently, growing up in contexts prioritising affectionate care cannot be underestimated.”

Donating just £3 to the NSPCC enables their helpline to answer a call with a neglected or abused child. To learn more and donate, visit the NSPCC. If you’re an adult concerned about a child, you can call 0808 800 5000 or email