NSPCC Wales’ child neglect referrals to police up 67%

The number of child neglect reports in Wales requiring intervention by police or social services rose by two thirds in the past year, the NSPCC has said.

Of 575 calls between April 2011 and March 2012 to the charity’s neglect helpline, 434 needed involvement from police or social services – a 67% rise.

It wants the rise researched. The Welsh government has been asked to comment.

In the UK, the NSPCC says calls about neglect have doubled since 2009 to more than 12,000 – its highest ever number.

Of the cases in Wales that did not require police or social services involvement, the charity said counsellors provided advice and support to callers.

Concerns ranged from callers describing children going hungry and begging neighbours for food, to worries about children being left home alone or outside in the cold.

‘Child protection’

The charity says local children’s services face “unprecedented pressures”.

In Wales last year, 1,265 children were subject to child protection plans because they were at risk of harm from neglect – up from 1,180 the previous year, the charity said.

It added that in the past five years, neglect has consistently been the top reason for children being subject to a child protection plan in Wales.

The charity has launched a series on initiatives to work with local authorities and care professionals to establish the best way to identify and help prevent neglect cases.

Des Mannion, NSPCC national head of service for Wales, said: “More people than ever are contacting the NSPCC about child neglect.

“Some of this will be down to the public being more willing to speak out – and this can only be a positive thing – but there is clearly a worrying trend, not just in our figures, but from a range of agencies and bodies.

“More research is needed on why this sharp increase has occurred.”

Among the calls received by the charity in Wales included a report from Wrexham about two young children often unsupervised and barefoot on the street, while their mother asked neighbours to feed them.

A Cardiff caller reported a toddler and two young children who are often under-dressed and with no shoes on, while their mother drinks and takes drugs every day.

Des Mannion said: “If families cannot or will not improve, children must be protected and action be taken at the earliest opportunity.

“But our experience shows that with the right support many families can improve their behaviour.

“The costs in both financial and human terms for supporting most families to change are far lower than the costs of taking children into care.”