The number of child cruelty and neglect cases recorded by police in Cambridgeshire has more than doubled in the last three years, the NSPCC has revealed.
The charity’s annual child protection review – How Safe are our children– shows parents or carers in the county were reported in connection with 55 offences in 2014-15 compared to 23 in 2012-2013.
Adults called with fears about children who were starving and dirty, young people who lived in rat-infested homes, while other contacts reported parents who were drunk or left their children to fend for themselves.
Colin Peak, NSPCC head of service for East of England said: “Neglect is the most common form of abuse in the UK and can wreak havoc on a child’s brain development, emotional well-being, ability to form relationships, and mental health. These children are more likely to suffer from depression and post-traumatic disorder, and even suicidal thoughts. For some, neglect can be fatal.
“These levels of neglect simply do not belong to the 21st century. Many of these lonely, frightened, children have to resort to desperate measures to survive after being left to fend for themselves and it shames our nation that these numbers are so high. It’s an unacceptable situation which must be remedied. And we can only do that by looking out for vulnerable children and making sure that they are given the right support to prevent longer term damage to the lives of those who have survived the horror of such neglect and cruelty.”
One 14-year- old boy who called the NSPCC’s ChildLine service said: “I know it sounds disgusting but sometimes I feel like eating pet food because it’s all there is in the house. But I just drink water to make me feel full- up instead. My teacher has asked why I’m dressed in dirty clothes and why I never have any lunch money and I don’t know what to say. I feel angry at my parents because they don’t seem to care how miserable it’s making me. If I ask them for anything they become really angry and hit me. Sometimes I feel killing myself will be the only way out.”
Another 13-year- old told how he was forced to steal because he was so hungry: “My mum goes out every weekend to the pub. She doesn’t seem to care about me or my brother. There is never any food at home and when we ask for something to eat she gives us cereal. I’m always feeling tired and can’t concentrate – I only ever think about food when I’m at school. Sometimes I steal packed lunches from the other kids because I know I probably won’t get anything at home. I don’t know if my life will ever change but I can’t live like this anymore.”
The NSPCC is running a campaign – It’s Time- which is calling for all child victims of abuse to be given timely, appropriate therapy to help them overcome their traumatic experience and rebuild their lives. A survey last year revealed that more than one in five children referred to specialist NHS mental health services- including abuse victims- had their cases rejected.
The charity’s ChildLine service provides a safe, confidential place for children with no one else to turn to, whatever their worry, whenever they need help. Children can contact ChildLine 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0800 1111 or by visiting www.childline.org.uk
The free helpline provides adults with a place they can get advice and support, share their concerns about a child or get general information about child protection. Adults can contact the helpline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0808 800 5000, by texting 88858 or visiting www.nspcc.org.uk