[C]umbria Police and partners are supporting a national campaign to raise awareness of the role that everyone has to play in protecting children and young people from child abuse and neglect.
Between April 2015 and March 2017, Cumbria Police recorded 307 child cruelty and neglect offences, including young children being left home alone, assaulted, and being left in the care of those under the influence of alcohol.
A campaign launched by the Department for Education has highlighted that there may be further unreported concerns, as a third of people who suspect child abuse do nothing about it through fear of thinking they could be wrong.
The ‘Together, we can tackle child abuse’ initiative aims to change such perceptions, and encourage people to raise their concerns, even if they are not absolutely sure of their suspicions.
As part of the campaign, this week (July 24 – 28) will see Cumbria Police hold an open forum event on Facebook, allowing members of the public to have their questions about child abuse and neglect answered by representatives from Cumbria Police, Children’s Services and the NSPCC.
Detective Inspector Jason McKenna said: “We recognise that reporting a suspicion of child abuse or neglect is not an easy thing to do, but if you have a feeling that something isn’t right, it is better to be safe than sorry. Anything you may notice may help a child at risk, and could form part of a bigger picture.
“Every child deserves to be protected and even if you aren’t absolutely certain of what you’ve seen or heard, there are many people you can talk to who will then be able to investigate further.
“The Facebook event next week will give everyone an extra opportunity to seek advice from a range of agencies in one place, and I encourage anyone with questions to get in touch.”
A spokesperson for the NSPCC said: “Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child’s basic needs and is the most common form of child abuse. Neglect can be in many forms from physical, emotional, medical neglect and a child being put in danger or not protected from other forms of abuse.”
Specific changes in a child’s appearance, behaviour and communication can indicate neglect or abuse.
To spot the signs, look for the following changes:
Appearance – such as frequent unexplained injuries, consistently poor hygiene, matted hair, unexplained gifts, or a parent regularly collecting children from school when drunk;
Behaviour – such as demanding or aggressive behaviour, frequent lateness or absence from school, avoiding their own family, misusing drugs or alcohol, or being constantly tired;
Communication – such as sexual or aggressive language, self-harming, becoming secretive and reluctant to share information or being overly obedient.
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall said: “Protecting our youngsters from child abuse is a key priority for the Police. It is appalling that in this day and age, a small number of children and young people can still being subjected to awful treatment by their parents or carers. This is totally unacceptable, and we must all do our bit to look out for the signs and encourage reporting when in doubt. It is only by working together to raise awareness that we can keep our children safe.”
Anyone who has concerns about the welfare of a child can contact:
- Police on 101;
- Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111;
- NSPCC Helpline on 0800 800 500
- Childline on 0800 1111
- Cumbria LSCB Safeguarding Hub on 0333 240 1727.