A children’s charity has warned the number of neglected children in Lancashire has risen by more than a fifth in just five years.
Child neglect is the most common type of abuse affecting children in the UK, and reports to the police included extreme cases of when a parent or carer deliberately neglected, assaulted, abandoned or exposed their child to serious harm.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC said: “It’s unclear exactly why the number of child neglect and cruelty offences has risen so dramatically, but greater public awareness and improvements in how police record offences could be factors, along with deeper societal issues.
“Whatever the reasons for the increase in child neglect there is something we can all do about it now, we need to be aware of vulnerable children and be ready to report it to the NSPCC or the authorities if we are concerned for their safety or wellbeing.”
In Blackpool there are said to be 2,500 children being neglected in some way.
The facts are set out in the resort’s Safeguarding Children Board annual report for 2017/18 which says around 2,500 children in Blackpool (one in 14), are currently likely to be experiencing neglect while in every class of 30 children, two will have a social worker.
In March, the Gazette revealed how a single mum left her young son alone for 12 hours at a time while she worked night shifts so she could afford to provide for him.
She has since lost custody of the seven-year-old, who suffers from a serious medical condition.
He was placed in the care of his dad, who owed more than £3,000 in unpaid child support and saw his son only sporadically over the last four years.
Police found the boy at his home after neighbours raised the alarm, and the mum later admitted child cruelty during a hearing before Preston’s Sessions House court.
Details emerged of how the boy’s mum left him at their home overnight, with a seven foot high window his only means of getting in and out of the property.
The boy told a concerned neighbour he had to go in and out through the window because his mother was at work, and said he had not eaten anything since breakfast.
His only means of contacting his mum was his iPad, using an emoticon of a dolphin.
He had packets of Haribo sweets in his bedroom to eat, but although there was food in the fridge, he would not have been capable of making a warm meal with the items.
The new NSPCC data comes just two weeks after Lauren Coyle, 20, and her partner Reece Hitchott, 20, were jailed for causing or allowing the death of her 19-month-old daughter Ellie-May Minshull Coyle.
Little Ellie died after being forcibly restrained, face down, by ligatures in her ‘Frozen’ themed toddler bed, which had been turned into a “monstrous cage” at their home on Ward Street, Lostock Hall, near Preston.
A total of 740 cases of neglect were recorded by police in the last five years in Lancashire, with 153 of those in the last year alone.
Among the recorded cases is a court conviction from March 2017 that shocked the nation, when a couple admitted letting their four children live in a “disgusting” house with no food and excrement smeared on the walls. The parents put the tots to bed in the Leyland property in rooms covered in filthy open nappies.
At Preston Crown Court, each parent admitted four counts of neglect after a judge was told the youngsters, all under five, were so thirsty and hungry when police found them that officers had to go out and buy them food, because there was nothing in the kitchen – except cannabis in a slow cooker.
They found a baby in a bouncer two feet away from a halogen heater, naked except for an overflowing nappy, a screaming little girl trapped under a bed frame in a room full of faeces and flies, and two toddlers in a bedroom with excrement sprayed on walls and exposed carpet rods.
Lancashire has a child population of approximately a quarter of a million, forming around a fifth of the population.
Around 1,000 children looked after by other local authorities are placed in the county, resulting in high numbers of children with complex needs requiring access to local services, according to a Safeguarding Children’s Board Report.
By July last year the Ribbleton ward in Preston had the biggest number of children on a child protection plan (CPP) in the county, with 31 youngsters, and Deepdale ranked ninth highest in the county with 20, according to Lancashire County Council.
A child protection plan is a plan drawn up by the local authority if a child protection conference decides a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm. It sets out how the child can be kept safe, how things can be made better for the family and what support they will need.
In all 208 children in the city were subject to CPPs, and it also had the third highest number of looked after children in the county.
In South Ribble 68 youngsters were subject to CPPs, with the biggest number in Middleforth, and there were 88 others in Chorley, with the highest proportion in Clayton-le-Woods.
In Lancaster there were 76, with most in Heysham North ward.
A spokesman from Lancashire County Council said: “The county council has a duty to protect children and young people from harm caused by neglect or abuse. This includes investigating any allegations that a child might be being neglected or abused, and if necessary take appropriate action to protect the child.”
Not all cases recorded by police resulted in a court conviction.
In July this year a report was published on Lancashire’s Safeguarding Children’s Board website about a four month old baby who was seriously injured, whilst in the care of their mother and male partner, and suffered life-threatening injuries with lifelong consequences for their health and development.
The injuries were found to be non-accidental and a police investigation commenced, following a lengthy criminal probe, it was found that there were insufficient grounds for a criminal conviction.
The review highlighted key themes including the facts that the mother had previously applied and obtained from the family court a 10-year non-molestation against the male partner and it stressed all professionals must ensure that they understand injunctions such as non-molestation orders and their agencies procedure if breached.
In the independent Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board’s annual report, chairman Jane Booth said LCC’s own recent investment in child protection services meant that “it would be very surprising if there weren’t more increases … this time next year” but that it was hoped a lot of the increase will be going in to recognition of children who are at risk - and have not actually been harmed.
The NSPCC is launching its ‘Light For Every Childhood’ Christmas Appeal this month.
Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline seven days a week on 0808 800 5000, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
What to look out for
Common signs and symptoms adults may notice in a child who is being neglected include:
- Poor appearance and hygiene, they may be smelly or have unwashed clothes
- Living in an unsuitable home environment for example dog mess being left or not having any heating
- Left alone for a long time
- Untreated injuries, medical and dental issues; they may have skin sores, rashes, flea bites, scabies or ringworm
- Poor language, communication or social skills
- Seem hungry or turn up to school without having breakfast or any lunch money
Who to contact
If there are immediate safeguarding concerns to the child contact Lancashire’s Children’s Customer Care on 0300 123 6720 (8am - 8pm) or out of hours 0300 123 6722 (8pm - 8am).
- If you think a child is in immediate danger – don’t delay call the police on 999.
- If you have a concern about an adult that works with children but there are no immediate safeguarding concerns to the child inform senior management at the organisation where this person works.