Rise in child neglect reports to police by NSPCC Wales

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A record number of child neglect cases have been referred to police forces and social services in Wales by a children's charity.

NSPCC Wales said 804 calls to its hotline were passed on to authorities in 2016-17 - an 80% rise in five years.

The highest proportion were in Torfaen and Rhondda Cynon Taff, with the lowest in Denbighshire and Monmouthshire.

The Welsh Government said it had taken "important steps to safeguard and protect children".

NSPCC Wales said it was important to know the scale of the problem so that families could be given support.

Neglect means a child's needs for safety, physical care and love are not being met to an extent that it could cause them serious or lasting harm.

Vivienne Laing, policy and public affairs manager for NSPCC Wales, said neglect was the most common reason for calls to the helpline over the last few years.

"We're seeing a rise in calls about neglect because of a number of reasons," she said.

"People are suffering with lots of stress at the moment and a shortage of funds - people are also more isolated from their families and support. So things like this can impair parenting.

"In the past, people might have just thought neglect meant physical neglect - like a child being dirty.

"What can often cause the most harm is emotional neglect - the need for warm, loving, supportive parenting that responds to a child's needs. And I think people are becoming more aware of that type of neglect."

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Signs of neglect

  • The child may be aggressive and hostile, prone to angry outbursts or lashing out towards others
  • They may be more impulsive than others with poor concentration
  • Some children may be particularly quiet or withdrawn
  • Poor appearance and hygiene
  • Left alone for a long time
  • Poor language, communication or social skills
  • Seem hungry or turn up to school without having breakfast or any lunch money

The charity said a growing number of people contacting its helpline described parents as having a problem with alcohol and drugs, with some of them regularly leaving their children unsupervised so they could go drinking with friends.

It said authorities and health providers needed to put in place more support for parents - particularly new parents - to help them develop the skills needed for good parenting.

Des Mannion, head of NSPCC Wales, added: "Neglect can have severe and long-lasting consequences for children and can also be an indicator of other forms of abuse."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 introduces new duties on all safeguarding partners to report children and adults who are suspected to be at risk of or who are experiencing neglect or abuse.

"The act also introduced our first national independent safeguarding board in Wales."

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