News : Child Abuse Referrals to Police Up Almost 50%
May 30, 2014 -- A children's charity helpline has reported an increase of almost 50% in the number of cases of emotional abuses being referred to the police and local authorities in the last year.
The NSPCC's anonymous helpline helped more than 8,000 people who are concerned that children they know are suffering from emotional neglect and abuse. Of these 5,354 cases were so serious they were referred to local authorities. This was a 47.5% increase from the previous year when there 3,629 referrals.
Cases such as that of Daniel Pelka, the four-year-old who was starved and beaten for months before he died in March 2012, may have triggered the surge, the NSPCC said.
The charity said the figures underline the need for new legislation to tackle emotional neglect of children. Under the so-called Cinderella law, which is being considered by the government, the definition of child cruelty would change to include emotional neglect and abuse as well as physical abuse. But critics have claimed the law will criminalise a lack of parental love and would fail to protect the most vulnerable.
John Cameron, the NSPCC head of child protection operations, said: "Emotional neglect and abuse cause real harm to children and we are supporting more people than ever before who want a safe, non-judgmental place in which to talk through their concerns.
"As a result of this we are able to recognise the most serious cases and are referring an unprecedented number of emotional neglect and abuse cases to children's services and the police."
He said it was a positive step forward that the government had indicated it would outlaw extreme emotional cruelty.
"We must recognise extreme emotional abuse for what it is – a crime – and those who carry it out should be prosecuted," he said. "This isn't about prosecuting parents who don't buy their children the latest gadgets or trainers; this is about parents who consistently deny their children love and affection."
But Alan Wood, president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, said the proposed law was not the answer. Speaking to the social care news site Community Care, he said: "Parents who fail to provide the basic level of emotional and physical support for their children do so for a variety of reasons including incapacity, inability, and wickedness but a lack of legislative clarity is not one of those reasons. There is no evidence to suggest a change in the law will prevent further instances of neglect from occurring.
"Creating a new criminal offence would not alter the way in which local authorities intervene to protect children. Practitioners are fully aware of the harm caused by emotional neglect and abuse. Emotional abuse is the reason given for nearly a third of child protection plans. This shows that local authorities are acting to keep safe children who are suffering from emotional abuse."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is a charity campaigning and working in child protection in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Published: Monday, June 2, 2014