NSPCC says child abuse referrals at all-time high

Young girl sits on staircase with arms across her face
Image caption The charity reported that the number of cases of suspected child neglect has increased by 81%

The number of serious child abuse cases referred to police or social services by the NSPCC reached an all-time high last year, the children's charity says.

NSPCC counsellors referred 16,385 serious cases to police or social services in 2010/11, which is 37% higher than the previous year.

More than one in three of these cases involved families previously unknown to local authorities.

The charity attributed the rise to better public awareness of child abuse.

Head of the NSPCC Helpline John Cameron said that more effective intervention in child cruelty cases was needed and he urged people to report swiftly any concerns about a child being maltreated.

"We must pick up on children's problems as early as we can to stop their abuse. Social workers cannot be in the community all the time. But members of the public can be their eyes and ears," he said.

"The increase in referrals over the last year shows more people want to play their part in keeping children safe."

The number of cases of suspected child neglect increased by 81%, up from 3,562 to 6,438 cases, the NSPCC added.

A further 4,113 cases of reported physical abuse, 1,520 cases of sexual abuse and 2,932 cases of emotional abuse were also referred to police or social services, the figures showed.

A total of 46% of those who contacted the helpline had their concerns passed on to the authorities, up from 39% the previous year.

The figures follow a recent NSPCC survey of 2,275 children aged 11-17 which found that one in five said they had been seriously physically or sexually abused or neglected at some point during childhood.

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