Concerns about child abuse have soared since national lockdown measures were first introduced, the NSPCC has found – with the average monthly number of referrals from the charity’s helpline on the issue increasing by over 100% in the South West.
The NSPCC has analysed its data from April to November and has found that the level of concern about emotional abuse, neglect, and physical abuse remain well above the pre-pandemic average.
Since April, the helpline has received 31,359 contacts from adults across the UK anxious about child abuse or neglect, referring half (50%) of these on to external agencies like the police and social services to take further action.
This has led to an average monthly number of referrals of 249 since the start of the first lockdown compared to 119 prior to lockdown in the South West this year. In the eight months since the start of lockdown there have been 1,994 referrals made in the region about child abuse.
As the festive period fast approaches, the NSPCC has issued the findings as a warning that Christmas can be a very difficult time for children suffering abuse and neglect, and the impact of the Coronavirus could put even more children at risk.
To help protect children stuck at home in environments that are not safe, the charity is urging the public to search “NSPCC” and donate £20 via it’s Here for Children Christmas appeal page.
A concerned adult told the NSPCC helpline: “I am ringing with concerns for 3 children who I believe are being emotionally abused and neglected. The police were recently called to the family home because the mother was drunk and had left the children at home alone all night.
“The father, who no longer lives with the children, found out and came to the house saying he was going to take the children home with him. The children have said they want to move in with me before Christmas because they don’t want to live with their Mum or Dad. They are really worried that their mothers drinking will get worse over Christmas, as it has done in the past. I fear they could be right as her drinking is becoming worse and she has been drunk more frequently in recent months. They need urgent help.”
Kamaljit Thandi, Head of NSPCC helpline said: “These figures highlight the increase in the number of adults reaching out with concerns about the welfare of children since the first national lockdown began.
“It’s no secret that this Christmas is going to be a very different one and for thousands of children, being stuck at home for the holidays will be a terrifying thought. At the NSPCC, we know how important it is that people have the opportunity to speak up when they think a child is at risk of abuse and neglect. Our helpline for adults and Childline will be open every day over the festive period.”
As well as urging the public to be extra vigilant during the Christmas holidays, the NSPCC is urging the Government to ensure children and families can get the help they need in the short and long term. To avoid this crisis having a lasting impact on a generation of children, it is crucial that the Government invests long term funding to support them to recover from adverse and traumatic experiences during lockdown and to rebuild their lives.
The charity’s team of professionals working on its helpline for concerned adults and the dedicated volunteer counsellors at Childline will all play a vital role in being here for children this Christmas.
Pauline, a volunteer counsellor at Childline said: “At Childline we know how important it is that we are here for children over the Christmas period. We are there for young people when they need the service the most and for many - Christmas will be that time. The pandemic has had a huge impact on young people and for the many who will have nowhere else to turn, we will provide a vital listening ear.”
Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline seven days a week throughout the festive period on 0808 800 5000, or email firstname.lastname@example.org