Identifying hidden abuse is key to early intervention15th February 2011
Nearly one in five secondary school children in the UK have been severely abused or neglected during childhood, the NSPCC finds as part of a major study.
The finding comes from a survey of 2,275 children aged 11-17 and 1,761 adults aged 18-24 carried out by the charity in 2009. The study follows an earlier NSPCC survey of the childhood experiences of 18-24 year olds in 1998/99.
Despite the high amount of abuse and neglect found, the NSPCC study reveals falling amounts of some types of abuse and neglect over the last 30 years showing that progress can be made in the fight against child cruelty. The charity believes that this can be attributed to heightened awareness and action, contributing to changing public attitudes and behaviours towards children.
Overall, the findings raise concern that the vast majority of abused and neglected children are not getting the vital help they need either from statutory services or informal support networks in the community. There are currently around 46,000 children of all ages on a local authority child protection plan or register.
Such lack of support can cause serious harm to children's development and long-term health. The study indicates that severely abused and neglected children are almost nine times more likely to try and kill themselves and almost five times more likely to self-harm than children who have not been severely abused or neglected.
The NSPCC is calling for better early intervention in child protection to address the issue. It sees teachers, schools and other professionals as key in identifying and responding to the hidden cases of child abuse in the UK.
Andrew Flanagan, chief executive of the NSPCC, said:
"The scale and impact of child abuse requires a major shift towards earlier intervention in child protection. When children do not get the protection and support they need when they most need it, they can be vulnerable to continuing physical or mental harm and further abuse.
"There are likely to be severely maltreated children in every secondary school across the country. Some will face abuse and neglect while still at school. Others will have suffered abuse and neglect in early childhood.
"Teachers have a critical role to play in helping these children, as outside the home, school is the main place of safety for a child. They must be supported to identify possible signs of abuse and neglect, like feeling suicidal. They can then work with social workers, health and other professionals to prevent the long-term harm it causes.
"The NSPCC is calling on people to be vigilant to the signs of abuse and call our 24-hour Helpline if they are concerned about a child. And we urge children themselves to contact ChildLine whenever they have a problem."
The NSPCC provides information for professionals working in child protection or with children.
If you are worried about a child you can call the NSPCC's free, confidential, 24-hour Helpline on 0808 800 5000.
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