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NSPCC reports 200% hike in reports of child emotional abuse

There has been a 200% increase in reports of emotional abuse of children, the NSPCC has warned.

beautiful sad girl and parents arguing at home

The number of people contacting the charity’s helpline concerned about a child being emotionally abused has increased by 200% in seven years. There were 3,341 reports of emotional abuse in 2009/10 we received. This figure rose to 10,009 in 2016/17.

However, the charity warns that the full scale of the problem could be much greater and is calling on the government to commission a study into the extent of child abuse and neglect in the UK. The charity says it is “fighting with our eyes blinkered because we don’t know how many children have been abused, so it’s impossible to know if we’re doing enough”.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “Hearing reports from our Helpline about parents or carers who are consistently verbally assaulting, bullying, isolating or humiliating their children is devastating.

“The huge increase in people recognising and reporting emotional abuse to our Helpline indicates people are willing to take action, but the disturbing truth is that the UK has no idea how many other children are suffering from emotional abuse or in fact, any type of abuse.

“We urgently need government to step in now, before another eight years go by, and commission a study that gives us the clearest possible picture of the extent of child abuse and neglect in the UK,” he added.

The charity says that as a society, we often talk about physical and sexual abuse, but evidence shows that the impact of emotional abuse or neglect can have at least as significant an impact on children.

In recent years there has been an increase in emotional abuse as a reason for a child being on a child protection plan or register in England up from 23 per cent of all plans in 2006 to 35 per cent in 2016 and Wales up from 19 per cent of all children on a register in 2006 to 34 per cent in 2016.

The increase in the number of children on child protection plans and registers for emotional abuse in England and Wales could reflect increased awareness of the importance of stepping in in these cases, says the charity’s report ‘How safe are our children?’

In addition, the number of times members of the public contacted the NSPCC helpline about emotional abuse increased from 5,878 contacts in 2011/12 to 10,009 in 2016/17. This is a 70 per cent increase in the last five years, the largest increase of any abuse type.

Alison Michalska, ADCS President, said: “This report highlights an alarming rise in the number of reports of emotional abuse, this is very concerning for our members and their teams given what we know about the impact of abuse on children and young people’s emotional health and development, and the intergenerational effects of childhood trauma. Our own Safeguarding Pressures Phase 5 research found that emotional abuse, including domestic abuse, is sadly an increasingly common reason for a child becoming subject to a child protection plan. The effects of ‘the toxic trio’, of parental mental health, substance misuse and domestic abuse, continue to be a major and growing reason for involvement of children’s social care services too.”

“The NSPCC suggest a nationwide study that looks at the prevalence of child abuse and neglect in the UK to help us gain a clearer picture of the extent of abuse in all its forms. If this proposal is taken forward then it’s important that the root causes are also explored. This would help us ensure that the support in place to protect victims and prevent abuse from happening in the first place is fit for purpose. Local authorities are working hard to keep more children safe with severely exhausted resources, but this is tougher now than ever before. With fundamental changes to our financing on the horizon, some local authorities will be forced to focus on statutory high-end services, with even more limited resources placing our ability to protect children at risk,” she concluded.

The NSPCC’s annual How safe are our children? Report.

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