A charity is warning of a sharp rise in neglect cases putting further pressure on the city’s children’s services department.
The NSPCC today (Monday) revealed calls to its emergency helpline reached record levels from April 2011 to March 2012.
In the charity’s East Midlands region, which includes Peterborough, the hotline took 1,032 calls, with 775 being considered so serious referrals had to be made to children’s services or the police - a rise of 32.7 per cent.
Of those calls, 38 were from Peterborough. Figures are not available from the previous year.
Callers to the NSPCC helpline described children going hungry and begging neighbours for food.
Others were worried about children being left home alone or outside in the cold for hours on end, or children whose parents had drink or drug addictions.
Last year 65 children in Peterborough were subject to child protection plans because they were at risk of harm from neglect – an increase from 36 in 2010.
Peterborough City Councillor Sheila Scott, cabinet member for children’s services, said that without referrals, social workers would never know about children at risk from abuse.
And she said the department sometimes sees a rise in referrals when there is publicity surrounding a particular case, such as the tragic death of five-year-old Tyler Whelan.
She added: “We have recognised there are increasing calls on our services and it has been steadily increasing over the years.
“We have made arrangements for an extra 25 social workers which clearly recognises that problem. We are in a slightly better position to respond because of our detailed work.
“The fact of the matter is, people contact us, some of them will need other forms of intervention. We have to know what’s going on.”
The NSPCC said it is testing new approaches with local authorities to find out what is most effective in identifying, preventing and tackling neglect quickly.
Fiona Richards, NSPCC regional head of service for the East Midlands, 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.”
She added: “The NSPCC is working closely with professionals and local government across the UK to find out the best ways to identify and tackle neglect before it ruins children’s lives.
“And we want the public to keep raising the alarm so families can be supported to prevent more children suffering the devastating consequences of neglect.
“Obviously if families will not or cannot improve, children must be protected and taken into care. 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 families to change are far lower than the costs of taking children into care.”
Anyone who thinks a child is being neglected or suffering any kind of abuse shouldn’t wait until they are certain there’s a problem. Contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, email email@example.com, report online at www.nspcc.org.uk/helpline.
Alternatively contact Peterborough City Council on 01733 747474