The number of child cruelty and neglect cases recorded by police in Bedfordshire has more than tripled in the last two years, the NSPCC has revealed this week.
The charity’s annual child protection review – How Safe are our children– shows parents or carers in the county were reported in connection with 27 offences in 2014-15 compared to 7 in 2013-2014.
Adults called with fears about children who were starving and dirty, young people who lived in rat-infested homes, while other contacts reported parents who were drunk or left their children to fend for themselves.
Neglect is a feature in six out of ten Serious Case Reviews , which are undertaken when a child dies or is seriously injured and abuse is believed to have been a factor.
It is also the most common reason for a child to be on a child protection plan in England (45 per cent).
It’s unclear why the figures have risen so dramatically, but greater public awareness and improvements in how police record offences could be factors.
Colin Peak, NSPCC head of service for East of England said: “Neglect is the most common form of abuse in the UK and can wreak havoc on a child’s brain development, emotional well-being, ability to form relationships, and mental health.
“These children are more likely to suffer from depression and post-traumatic disorder, and even suicidal thoughts. For some, neglect can be fatal.
“These levels of neglect simply do not belong to the 21st century.
“Many of these lonely, frightened, children have to resort to desperate measures to survive after being left to fend for themselves and it shames our nation that these numbers are so high.
“It’s an unacceptable situation which must be remedied.
“And we can only do that by looking out for vulnerable children and making sure that they are given the right support to prevent longer term damage to the lives of those who have survived the horror of such neglect and cruelty.”
The NSPCC is running a campaign – It’s Time- which is calling for all child victims of abuse to be given timely, appropriate therapy to help them overcome their traumatic experience and rebuild their lives.
“A survey last year revealed that more than one in five children referred to specialist NHS mental health services- including abuse victims- had their cases rejected.