Reports of neglect to Northern Ireland’s NSPCC helpline reach record numbers

Neglect NSPCC

In 2016/17, following calls from adults who were concerned about child neglect, the NSPCC Helpline in Northern Ireland made 247 referrals to the police or social services for further investigation. This figure is an increase of more than 70% over the last five years. *

Across the UK, the NSPCC is contacted on average 53 times a day by adults concerned about child neglect, the charity’s latest figures reveal. Last year the NSPCC Helpline dealt with 19,448 calls and emails about child neglect – the highest number the charity has ever had to handle – and an increase of 61% over five years.[1] 87% of those contacts (16,882) were serious enough to be referred to social services or the police for further investigation, with many cases involving children under five. [2]

Child neglect was mentioned in more than a quarter of all calls to the NSPCC Helpline in 2016/17.

Neglect happens when a child’s needs aren’t met and is down to several reasons ranging from parents not having the skills, support or funds, to having mental health issues.

A growing number of people contacting the NSPCC Helpline also 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.

One neighbour told Helpline staff:

“The children are home alone again; I saw the mother leave the house earlier this morning and its past midnight now. I’ve seen the children peer through the curtains a few times as if they’re waiting for her. She does this every Friday night to go out drinking with her mates. I’m really confused about what to do as I don’t want to ruin the relationship with the mother as we are neighbours but at the same time I am really worried about the children. What should I do?”

A family member of a suspected neglected child said:

“I am concerned for the safety of a little boy; he does not seem to be getting adequate care at home. His mother doesn’t seem interested in looking after him and lets him stay up all night; she has alcohol and drug abuse problems. He is regularly being left unsupervised and I am worried that he could seriously hurt himself at home alone, because I know it has happened before.”

These latest figures on neglect cases have been revealed in the NSPCC’s state of the nation report, How Safe are our Children? .

Currently, in Northern Ireland, neglect makes up nearly a third of the Child Protection Registration. The Safeguarding Board of Northern Ireland (SBNI) works to tackle neglect but  this vital work needs to have more support and the NSPCC  in Northern Ireland  is highlighting the need for the new Northern Ireland Executive to prioritise the provision of further investment in health and social care  in order to make this happen.

Neglect can have serious and long-lasting effects; in the worst cases, it can lead to a child suffering permanent disabilities or even dying from malnutrition.

Common signs and symptoms adults may notice in a child who is being neglected include:

  • Poor appearance and hygiene, they may be smelly or have unwashed clothes
  • Living in an unsuitable home environment for example dog mess being left or not having any heating
  • Left alone for a long time
  • Untreated injuries, medical and dental issues; they may have skin sores, rashes, flea bites, scabies or ringworm
  • Poor language, communication or social skills
  • Seem hungry or turn up to school without having breakfast or any lunch money

Neil Anderson, Head of NSPCC in Northern Ireland said: “Neglect can have severe and long-lasting consequences for children, and can also be an indicator of other forms of abuse. This is why it is so important for anyone suspecting a child of being neglected to contact the NSPCC Helpline, so we can alert the authorities to quickly step in and help those in need. In Northern Ireland, “

Adults can contact the NSPCC Helpline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0808 800 5000, or

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