NSPCC and Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership launch campaign to prevent child neglect
The NSPCC and the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership (HSCP) have launched a campaign to prevent neglect.
It is the most prevalent form of child abuse across the UK, and in Hertfordshire there has been a steady rise in offences over the last three years.
As of December 2020, the county council had 409 children and young people under child protection plans, of which 182 (44.5%) related to neglect.
The Hertfordshire Neglect Matters campaign will raise awareness of child neglect not just with professionals, parents and young people but with the whole community in a bid to promote early intervention.
In the spring 2020 coronavirus lockdown, across the UK, the NSPCC saw a steady rise in calls to its helpline regarding neglect. Within three months there was a 42% increase and, combined with calls about physical abuse, this made up almost 30,000 contacts in just three months. Almost half of these contacts (45%) were so serious they had to be referred to agencies like police or social services.
Kath Gould, who works as a family safeguarding team manager at Hertfordshire County Council, said: "Neglect is when a parent or carer either intentionally or unintentionally does not provide a child with the correct level of care or opportunity in order for a child to develop and reach their full potential. This could be in the form of lack of supervision, inconsistent parenting, lack of support with education and health needs, not providing a comfortable home environment or not giving unconditional love and attention.
"Without this, a child's emotional, physical and educational wellbeing will be adversely affected in childhood and possibly into adulthood.
"We work with parents and carers to promote change in their care-giving and to help them to provide consistent, sustained and adequate care to their child.
"This campaign will help raise awareness and, we hope, offer additional insight and tools to help us continue to support families before they reach crisis point."
Assistant Chief Constable Bill Jephson, chair of the HSCP, said: "The partnership is committed to tackling and reducing childhood neglect as part of our aim to protect the county's children and young people.
"A lot of work has gone into planning this campaign and so we're excited to be launching and to see how the first phase of planned activity is received by the many professionals who work with children and young people in Hertfordshire.
"The new neglect strategy underlines this commitment and seeks to prevent children and young people experiencing neglect, ensuring appropriate intervention at the earliest possible stages to reduce the overall impact on potential victims.
"We plan to achieve this using a preventative, community-based approach, and our work with the NSPCC is vital to ensure everyone understands the signs of neglect, how they can provide support to children who are in need and how to get help and support for vulnerable families.
"The rise in reports can, in part, be attributed to improved recording processes and we will ensure that services are in place to meet the demand.
"The young victims of neglect need our support. Every child deserves to be loved and cared for, and Hertfordshire aspires to be a place where children not only feel safe but are nurtured and given the opportunities to flourish."
Anna Collishaw-Nikodemus, NSPCC local campaigns manager, said: "We know that neglect is a growing issue across the country and the most common form of child abuse both nationally and locally.
"During this pandemic, it is more important than ever that everyone in Hertfordshire understands the signs and symptoms of neglect and knows how to report any concerns they may have.
"Overall, neglect is still the most reported concern to our helpline. From April 2020 to January 2021 the NSPCC helpline made 5,649 referrals to external agencies, with figures sitting at the highest tier ahead of physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse both on and offline.
"Keeping children and young people safe is everyone's business and we all need to act. We know the fall-out of money trouble and worries about work can overload parents, making it harder to give care and attention to their children.
"With more children once again staying at home, we need to be ready to support them and we need to work together as a community and lighten the load for children as much as we can. If we work in partnership, we can all get through this pandemic and tackle neglect across Hertfordshire together."