The NSPCC is contacted on average 55 times a day by adults from across the UK worried about neglect, the charity’s latest figures reveal.
The charity’s helpline hears from concerned adults every day and night of the week with reports ranging from children being left unsupervised or with inadequate clothing, to being screamed at or living amongst mouldy food and animal faeces.
To raise awareness of child neglect – the most common type of abuse affecting children in the UK – the NSPCC has launched its ‘Light For Every Childhood’ Christmas Appeal.
In 2017/18 the helpline dealt with 19,937 calls and emails about child neglect – a third of all contacts to the NSPCC – with hundreds happening during the 12 days of Christmas.
Many of these concerns were so serious that they were referred to agencies including local authorities and the police, including 726 to agencies in Wales.
Last year the NSPCC helpline made 92 referrals to agencies based in Cardiff, the highest in Wales, about neglect, while 62 were made to authorities in Carmarthenshire.
Fifty-one referrals were made to authorities in Rhondda Cynon Taf via the helpline and agencies in Neath Port Talbot and Wrexham received 50 referrals following contact to the helpline which is free and available 24/7.
During the festive period extended family members often get in touch with the NSPCC after spending more time with a young relative and becoming concerned for the child’s welfare.
The NSPCC Christmas Appeal is calling for donations to the NSPCC Helpline – which is open throughout the holidays – so they can answer more calls and help children suffering neglect both at Christmas and all year round.
Three quarters (73 per cent) of cases involving neglect reported to the NSPCC Helpline, a service run by child protection professionals, including social workers, teachers and health specialists, were serious enough to be referred to children services and the police for further investigation.
Des Mannion, the head of NSPCC Cymru/Wales, said: “Neglect doesn’t stop because it is Christmas, the holidays can in fact magnify problems because children are cut off from the wider community and their support network.
“While it is positive that people are being vigilant and reporting concerns of children suffering neglect rather than standing by, it is still deeply worrying to see that neglect continues to be the most common reason for contacting the NSPCC Helpline.
“This is why we are appealing to the generous nature of the public to support our ‘Light For Every Childhood Christmas Appeal’ to help us be there for even more young people in need.”
Neglect happens when a child’s basic needs are not being met and can be down to several reasons ranging from parents not having the skills, support or funds, to having mental health issues.
It can cause deep-rooted and lifelong physical and psychological harm for a child. At its worst neglect can lead to a child suffering permanent disabilities, or prove fatal.
Just £5 pays for the Helpline to answer a call about child neglect, to donate visit the NSPCC website.