Sharp rise in child welfare referrals in West Midlands

There has been a sharp rise in child welfare referrals being made from the NSPCC helpline to external agencies in the West Midlands against the backdrop of the pandemic, it has been revealed.

There were 6,749 referrals made by the helpline to external agencies in the region in 2020/21 – a 47 per cent increase compared to 2019/20.

Referrals are made when concerns reported to the helpline are considered serious enough to warrant further investigation.

The top reasons for referrals being made go unchanged, with concerns relating to parental and adult health and behaviour leading to 2,513 referrals to West Midlands-based agencies – this includes worries about parental alcohol and substance misuse, domestic abuse and parental mental health.

Across the UK a record number of adults with concerns about children called the NSPCC in the last 12 months, as contacts to its helpline surged by nearly a quarter.

The service received nearly 85,000 contacts from April 2020 to March 2021, a 23 per cent increase on the previous year, with 47 per cent of these leading to a referral to an external agency such as the police or children’s services.

Concerns

The figures echo concerns from the charity’s frontline teams that the pandemic has increased the risks of abuse and neglect, with children both more vulnerable and out of sight of people who can keep them safe.

The NSPCC is now warning that with most children back in schools and society, the hidden harms they experienced during the lockdowns will become visible.

The charity is calling for the Governments across the UK to invest in a positive future for children by ensuring their catch-up plans go beyond education.

Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said: "We have 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.

“But this isn’t just a job for our Governments. Everyone has to play their part in keeping children safe.

"And that’s why we’re planning Childhood Day on June 11 when we’ll celebrate childhood and encourage people to get involved in making sure all children grow up happy and safe.”

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