NSPCC sees record calls about neglect

A girl
Image caption The NSPCC said it would conduct research to find out why calls about neglect had increased

A record number of calls about child neglect were made to the NSPCC last year, which is a "worrying trend", the charity has said.

Between April 2011 and March 2012, it handled more than 12,000 contacts about neglect - the biggest number since its helpline was launched.

Some 8,600 led to the involvement of police or social services.

The NSPCC report said neglect calls had doubled in the past two years, and were up by a third in the last year alone.

It said the rise was placing additional pressure on already stretched children's services, with more children being taken into care and families being affected by cuts.

Some callers to the charity helpline described children going hungry and begging neighbours for food.

Others were worried about children left home alone or outside in the cold for hours on end, or children whose parents had drink or drug addictions.

Last year more than 21,000 children in the UK were the subject of child protection plans because they were at risk of harm from neglect - up 7.5% on the previous year, according to the NSPCC.

Dr Ruth Gardner, head of the NSPCC's neglect programme, said the reason for the increase in neglect calls could partly be due to members of the public being more willing to speak out.

"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 said.

She said there was a need to provide social workers with better training and give parents "access to support to help them to change their neglectful behaviour".

The NSPCC also said it was testing a new approach with local authorities to find out what was most effective in identifying, preventing and tackling neglect quickly.

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