Child abuse reports soar in Hartlepool as people are urged to report neglect

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A CHILDREN’S charity has revealed it dealt with 20 reports of children who were so badly abused or neglected the cases had to be investigated by social services or the police last year.

The concerning 2012/13 figures, released by the NSPCC, show a near 25 per cent increase on the previous year in the number of reports from Hartlepool the charity’s 24 hour helpline dealt with.

Charity chiefs stress the figures do not necessarily represent a rise in abuse or neglect in the town, but are more likely to show that people are more willing to take action following the recent shocking high-profile cases such as that of Baby P.

The NSPCC works closely with Hartlepool Borough Council and Cleveland Police to ensure the next step is taken to protect the children after the charity receives the call.

Cleveland Police chief inspector Kath Vickers told the Mail: “Whilst any increase in the numbers of reported cases is harrowing, the very fact concerns are being reported to agencies can be seen as a positive.

“There have been a number of cases highlighted on a national scale over recent years which have shown the significance of reporting abuse and may have led to more people coming forward.”

A spokesman for Hartlepool Borough Council said: “As the NSPCC acknowledge, the rise in reporting suspected child abuse and neglect is likely down to people’s willingness to pick up the phone following several high profile cases elsewhere in the country.

“As a council we work very closely with our partner organisations to adopt a pro-active approach to encourage people to report suspected abuse.

“We have robust measures in place to respond fully to all reports we receive and the work we do in Hartlepool has been judged by the Government to be good.”

Chief inspector Vickers urged youngsters to report any concerns they have, adding: “Perpetrators hide under the cloud of secrecy and the most important thing is that people report any concerns, regardless of whether they feel they are minor – it is never a waste of police resource.

“We work closely with our partners including the Local Safeguarding Children’s boards and continue to raise awareness of signs of abuse to look out for and why people should take the first steps to report it.”

Sixteen children in Hartlepool were so badly abused or neglected the case had to be investigated in 2011-12, four less than the most recent figures.

The charity dealt with 959 cases that had to be referred to social services or police for further investigation throughout the North-East and Cumbria last year, with NSPCC bosses revealing “many” of the children involved were under five.

That figure marks a six per cent regional increase compared to the previous year.

The figures come as the charity looks to step up its campaign to introduce ChildLine into every primary school and hold assemblies and workshops targeting youngsters and giving them the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe from harm.

John Cameron, head of the NSPCC helpline, said: “These figures do not necessarily represent more abuse or neglect in the region, but are likely to show that people are more willing to take action and pick up the phone following some recent shocking cases.

“It’s encouraging that people feel they have a responsibility for vulnerable children and are acting to report their concerns.

“We urge the public and professionals to continue to act on their instincts when they feel something could be wrong, and not wait until they are certain.

“We work closely with local authorities who take the next, vital step in protecting these children and we want to support and advise anyone working with children and enable them to take urgent action when necessary.”

Anyone worried about a child can contact the NSPCC anonymously on 0808 800 5000, text 88858 or email help@nspcc.org.uk.