Huge increase in child cruelty and neglect cases
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The number of parents deliberately neglecting, mistreating or assaulting their children in Avon and Somerset has risen by more than 400 per cent in the past five years.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary recorded 755 cases of child cruelty and neglect this year, compared to 145 in 2012-13.
Cases have significantly increased in the South West, compared to the national picture, which has seen figures double in the same time period, according to the NSPCC.
Reports to the police included extreme cases where a parent or carer deliberately neglected, assaulted, abandoned or exposed their child to serious harm.
Superintendent Will White said: “There are a number of reasons to explain the rise in the number of offences, including increased awareness of this type of crime, an increase in early reporting of offences and an increase in confidence among victims in the criminal justice system.
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“The way these types of crimes are recorded has also dramatically improved meaning we are unearthing a more accurate picture.
“If we want to stamp out abuse we first need to understand its scale and prevalence, this is a journey and that is not something that can be explained by solely analysing simple performance statistics.
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“Protecting the most vulnerable from harm is a force-wide priority which are set out by the Police and Crime Plan.
“The local safeguarding boards, which see police working with key partner agencies to share information and flag up concerns, have led to more early reporting of offences and has allowed us to work in an improved and more efficient way.
“We have specially trained officers who are dedicated to working with victims to make sure they are fully supported.”
The number of calls to the NSPCC helpline has also significantly increased – totalling 19,937 last year about children suffering neglect.
The NSPCC is running its Light For Every Childhood appeal this Christmas to raise awareness of child neglect.
A number of landmarks will be illuminated in the charity’s green colour to support the appeal during the festive period and the charity is also appealing for donations for its helpline.
Donate or find out more information at www.nspcc.org.uk