‘It takes a community to protect a child’ - NSPCC speak out about child neglect in Suffolk
- Credit: Contributed
Young people in Suffolk are being taught how to spot the signs that their friends and fellow pupils are being neglected in a bid stop potential abuse.
Figures released by the children’s charity, the NSPCC, recently revealed that 250 children were referred to social services in Suffolk in the past year.
However the organisation said the true scale of neglect is hard to monitor, because many are too scared to speak out.
As a result it is training volunteers to go into schools across Suffolk to teach students aged four to 11 how to spot and report abuse.
NSPCC school service coordinator for Suffolk Katy Cole, who trains the volunteers, said: “Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child’s basic needs and is the most common form of child abuse in Suffolk.
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“When a child is being neglected by their parent or carer, it is up to members of the community to spot the signs – that could be anyone at all who comes into contact with that child.”
She said there are four types of neglect - physical, educational, emotional and mental.
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“Physical neglect means failing to provide for a child’s basic needs such as food, clothing or shelter,” she said.
“It can also mean that a child is not being adequately supervised which could affect their safety.
“Educational neglect, quite simply, means failing to ensure a child receives an education, while emotional neglect is when a carer doesn’t meet a child’s needs for nurture, perhaps by ignoring, humiliating, intimidating or isolating them.
“Medical neglect is failing to provide appropriate health care, including dental care and refusal of care or ignoring medical recommendations.
“Crucially, neglect is dangerous for a child.
“It can have serious and long-lasting effects, and a child who is neglected will often suffer from other abuse as well.”
Neglect is a feature in six out of 10 Serious Case Reviews, which happen 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 protection plan in England.
Over the Christmas period, calls to the NSPCC Helpline increase and the charity receives 55 calls a day nationally from adults concerned about a child they know.
One of the reasons for this is that families spend more time together and adults see children they have not seen for a while.
The NSPCC has recently launched a new Christmas campaign called ‘Light for Every Childhood’. It is calling for £5 donation to help them with the issue of neglect.
How do you spot a child with neglect?
There is no one definitive way to spot a child who is suffering from neglect.
Ms Cole said: “There’s no definite checklist, but the persistent combination of a range of things may be a cause for concern.
“Children who are being neglected will often behave unusually.
“They might be withdrawn, anxious or aggressive, they might have trouble sleeping, wet the bed or have nightmares.
“Their eating habits might noticeably change, or they might be missing school, wearing dirty clothes, drinking or taking drugs.”
The NSPCC is using this particular Christmas push to specifically focus on the problem of child neglect.
A third of all calls to the NSPCC Hotline, which is open throughout the holiday period are about child neglect.
One relative got in touch with the helpline after visiting distant family over the Christmas period. They had concerns about a parent letting her young children get drunk and take drugs.
The caller, who has to remain nameless, said: “Over Christmas I spent time with my family and what I witnessed was really worrying.
“I learnt that the children have been left home alone on various occasions, and have also been allowed to get drunk and take drugs.
I think the whole family needs additional support.”
Ms Cole finished: “It is so important for anyone suspecting a child of being neglected to contact the NSPCC Helpline. We can alert the authorities to quickly step in and help those in need.”