A new report by the NSPCC has revealed the number of child abuse cases in Peterborough and referrals from the charity’s helpline have risen sharply.
In Peterborough in 2012/13 there were 113 referrals from NSPCC Helpline.
In 2015/16 there were 155 referrals - Up by 37 per cent.
The highest number of referrals from contacts from the public in the county was about neglect of a child which rose from 56 in 2012/13 to 65 last year – up 17 per cent.
Referrals regarding physical abuse of a child in Peterborough rose from 22 in 2012/13 to 32 last year – up 45 per cent.
Sarah Lambley, NSPCC Community Fundraising manager for Peterborough said: “If anyone is concerned about a child, the NSPCC is there 24/7 to offer advice and support. Is a worry one that should be pursued further? Could a child be at risk? It’s a good thing that many people are better aware than before about child abuse but not always clear or confident about what to do next.
“And that’s where we can help. And today, the NSPCC has revealed a 40 per cent increase in the number of contacts considered serious enough to be referred to the police and social services, compared with four years ago.
“Staggeringly the charity’s Helpline has referred a total of 589 contacts in Peterborough since 2012/13, across a wide range of issues including neglect, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Many of these were children unknown to the system whose situation warranted immediate action.
“The devastating impact abuse can have on a child’s emotional, physical and mental well-being have been well-documented. The fact that it is increasingly recognised within our society is one thing but perhaps what is now reassuring is that more people believe that something can be done to prevent it and that turning a blind eye and leaving what goes on behind closed doors is no longer acceptable.
“Often when thinking of child abuse, many of us focus first on the more commonly reported cases of physical and sexual abuse but a quarter of the referrals passed on by the NSPCC relate to cases of neglect – the on-going failure to meet a child’s physical and emotional basic needs.”
She added: “Neglect can take on many forms, with a child being left hungry or dirty, without adequate clothing, shelter, supervision, medical or health care. This, whilst it sounds Victorian, is the reality for many children in our communities
“There’s no escaping it. It is happening in all of our neighborhoods. To the majority of us, particularly those that are loving parents, the concept of neglect may seem alien. High profile reported cases depict the adults involved – commonly parents and relatives – as cruel, unloving and incapable of looking after or loving children.
“Yet we know that neglect is the most common form of child abuse and that often it is parents, guardians or carers who are simply struggling to cope and in desperate need of help.
“Neglect can often be difficult to identify, there’s often not a single sign that a child or family need help.
“There aren’t the evident marks of physical abuse. Nor are children encouraged to come forward and talk about neglect in the same way as perhaps they are for sexual abuse.
“For the child in question, a life of neglect might be all they know – to them neglect is normal. These professionals, who are trained to spot the signs of abuse and have a wealth of experience coming from backgrounds in teaching, healthcare and social work; its imperative that they are able to assess children and identify patterns of ongoing neglect before it is too late.
“That’s why we say to any adult, family member, mentor, neighbor or professional: don’t wait. Call us. Regardless of if you think it’s ‘nothing’, it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially if you are worried about the safety and security of a child.
“You can contact us at anytime on the phone or online. You can even do it anonymously. You won’t have to say who you are and even if you do, we can keep your identity private from the police or social services.
“You won’t be snitching on someone, you’ll be acting in the best interest of the child.
“Every year thousands of people get in touch for advice and support and the number keeps increasing. The most important thing is not to leave it. It might be too late.”