Child welfare referrals from NSPCC surge during pandemic

A call handler speaking on a headset
The charity said they saw a rise in the number of neglect and emotional abuse cases they were dealing with Credit: NSPCC

The number of children referred to the police or social services in the east of England increased during the pandemic, according to the NSPCC.

The helpline saw an increase in calls between April 2020 and March 2021, compared to the previous year, and the charity has warned of the "heavy toll" the coronavirus crisis has taken on children.

In total 5,694 referrals were made to external agencies in the east over those 12 months, a rise of 37% compared to the same period in 2019/20.

The most common reason for the NSPCC to contact an organisation like the police or a council social services department was concerns around a parent's health and behaviour, including substance abuse.

The charity said they also saw a rise in the number of neglect and emotional abuse cases they were dealing with.

Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said: "We’ve been hearing first-hand about the immense pressures families have faced during the pandemic and the heavy toll that has taken on children and young people. 

"For some children, this has included experiencing abuse, bereavement and other harm. "The record number of contacts to our helpline reinforces the need for Governments across the UK to put children at the heart of their recovery plans.

"These must go beyond education and address the harm some have experienced so the pandemic doesn’t leave a legacy of trauma for children."

The NSPCC has warned that with children back in schools, any signs of abuse they experienced during lockdown will become visible.

Children can phone the NSPCC helpline on 0800 1111.