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Child cruelty and neglect cases more than double in five years, police data obtained by the NSPCC shows

The number of child cruelty and neglect cases has more than doubled in the past five years, police data collected by the NSPCC shows.

The data from police forces in England shows there were 29,405 offences between April 2022 and March 2023 compared to 14,263 offences between April 2017 and March 2018.

The figures, obtained by the NSPCC children's charity by using the Freedom of Information Act, reveal the number of cases increased steadily year on year during that period.

The NSPCC submitted requests to every police force in England but four did not respond.

The data shows there was a total of 29,422 recorded offences of adults neglecting, mistreating, or assaulting children in 2022 in the forces that responded.

The NSPCC has said the child protection system has been under substantial pressure over the past few years.

The charity added the pressure has increased since the pandemic , with more than 655,000 child in need assessments completed by children's social services between 2022 and 2023 to determine whether a child requires support from a service.

Childline, a children's counselling phone line provided by the NSPCC, takes calls from children who tell them about the impact neglect and abuse is having on their lives.

A 12-year-old child who contacted the service said: "I can't stop crying and I don't know who to talk to about this. My mum isn't looking after me properly. She never has any money, there is never food in the house, and she doesn't take me to school. She takes drugs a lot and always asks me for money to get more. After she's taken drugs, she's in a really bad mood and is mean to me. Some of my relatives know what is happening but they don't really do much. I just can't take it anymore."

The NSPCC has said the services on the frontline of child protection, including health, policing and children's services, are experiencing spiralling costs and high demand.

The charity added that the strain on the child protection system is leaving those who work with families unequipped to adequately respond when things reach crisis point.

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The NSPCC, alongside Barnardo's, Action for Children, The Children's Society and the National Children's Bureau, is calling on the government to commit to "wholesale reform of children's social care, backed by significant investment in early intervention and prevention, to improve the lives of babies, children and young people".

Sir Peter Wanless, CEO at the NSPCC, said: "These latest child cruelty figures are a stark wake-up call that our current system is struggling to prevent the horrifying abuse and neglect happening to some of the youngest and most vulnerable in our society.

"The government has pledged to reform the child protection system to provide earlier support for babies, children and young people and stop families' problems escalating to crisis point. The figures underline why it is urgent that these changes are delivered at pace alongside significant investment."

Any adults concerned about a child's safety or wellbeing can contact the NSPCC helpline at help@nspcc.org.uk or by calling 0808 800 5000. Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or childline.org.uk.