Children’s charity the NSPCC has seen a record number of adults contact its helpline during the last year as callers reported concerns about the health and behaviour of parents.
The charity’s helpline service received nearly 85,000 contacts between April 2020 and March 2021, a 23% increase on the previous year. Out of these calls, 47% led to a referral to an external agency, such as the police or children’s services.
The figures reiterate fears that children have been at increased risk of neglect and abuse during lockdown with little access to professionals including teachers and social workers.
Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said: “We’ve been hearing first-hand about the immense pressures families have faced during the pandemic and the heavy toll that has taken on children and young people. For some children, this has included experiencing abuse, bereavement and other harm.
“The record number of contacts to our helpline reinforces the need for governments across the UK to put children at the heart of their recovery plans. These must go beyond education and address the harm some have experienced so the pandemic doesn’t leave a legacy of trauma for children,” he added.
From the calls received by the NSPCC helpline, the top concerns reported were:
- adult health and behaviour (including worries about parental alcohol and substance misuse, domestic abuse and parental mental health), which increased 42% to more than 20,400 contacts
- neglect, which increased 15% to more than 12,800 contacts
- physical abuse, which increased 18% to more than 12,600 contacts
- emotional abuse, which increased 40% to more than 11,600 contacts.
The charity warns that as the majority of children are now back in schools, the hidden harms they experienced during lockdowns will become more visible.
It calls on the government to invest in a positive future for children by making sure catch-up plans go beyond just education. In the short term, the harm and trauma children may have faced in the past 12 months must be addressed. Governments need to also use this opportunity to invest in keeping children safe in the future too.
However, Peter Wanless warns that it is not just down to the government. “Everyone has to play their part in keeping children safe. And that’s why we’re planning Childhood Day on 11 June when we’ll celebrate childhood and encourage people to get involved in making sure all children grow up happy and safe.”
On Friday 11 June, the charity is encouraging everyone in the UK to get playing to help raise money to keep children safe. Childhood Day celebrates childhood and what it is to be a child, while also showing we need to work together to prevent abuse and protect children.
Get involved with Childhood Day