A leading charity has reported a surge in reports of child abuse cases in the West Midlands. More than 700 people in the region have reported cases of emotional neglect and abuse to the NSPCC over the past year.
Some 491 of the cases were so serious they had to be referred to local authorities for further action. The number of calls is up from 319 last year, representing a 54 per cent increase. Sandra McNair, NSPCC Midlands regional head of service, said the figures followed a national trend. She said: “We have seen a surge across the West Midlands in numbers contacting the NSPCC Helpline.”
She said concerns centred on emotional abuse and neglect.
“The number of referrals increased for Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell and Dudley local authorities from last year, with Wolverhampton seeing a 100 per cent increase and Sandwell just over 82 per cent.
“This follows the national trend.
“We suspect that because there have been a number of high-profile local cases in the media over the last year, people are now feeling a greater responsibility to report these concerns.”
A total of 40 people from Wolverhampton contacted the charity to report emotional neglect or abuse in the 2013/14 year, with 30 of those cases referred to the local authority – double the previous year’s number.
Sandwell had the next-highest number of cases reported, followed by Walsall, Sandwell and Dudley.
The figures come as the Government considers a new law to tackle the issue of child abuse.
The so-called Cinderella law would update the 1,933 criminal offence of child cruelty to include emotional neglect and abuse, as well as physical abuse.
Ms McNair said: “Emotional neglect and abuse cause real harm to children and we are supporting more people than ever before who want a safe, non-judgemental place in which to talk through their concerns.
“As a result of this we are able to recognise the most serious cases and are referring an unprecedented number of emotional neglect and abuse cases to children’s services and the police.
“We must ensure that we support children’s services and that the police are given better powers to prosecute those who subject children to emotional neglect and abuse.
“That is why the NSPCC supports the proposed changes to the law to tackle this issue.
“But a law alone is not enough. What we really need to do is work together to prevent this abuse happening in the first place.”
l To report suspected cases of child cruelty call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, which is a free helpline service with counsellors available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.