Cases of child cruelty and neglect in Kent have risen by 76% in ten years, according to the NSPCC. There were 386 recorded offences between 2021-22, which rose to 792 in the next 12 months, between 2022-23.
Across the South East, child cruelty and neglect offences are up by a third in five years.
Cases reported to police forces in Kent, Sussex and Surrey of children being subjected to cruelty or neglect have risen by 33%.
The rise in offences comes as the child protection system faces substantial pressures.
The NSPCC is calling on the Government to invest in a well-resourced child protection system that can respond effectively to reports of cruelty or neglect.
NSPCC analysis of Freedom of Information data from police forces in England has found that there were 992 child cruelty offences recorded in the South East and 29,422 nationally in 2022-23.
The number of cases nationally has increased steadily year on year.
Of the police forces that provided data over the last five years and could be directly compared, national cases had doubled with 29,405 offences recorded between April 2022 and March 2023 and 14,263 offences recorded between April 2017 and March 2018.
The figures from the child protection charity come after a series of distressing court cases into the deaths of babies and children, including 18-month-old Alfie Phillips whose mother and partner were found guilty of his murder last week at Maidstone Crown Court in Kent.
The child protection system has been under substantial pressure over the last few years, particularly since the pandemic.
Frontline child protection services, including health and policing, are experiencing spiralling costs and high demand.
The NSPCC is asking politicians to commit to wholesale reform of children’s social care, backed by significant investment.
Sir Peter Wanless, CEO at the NSPCC, said: “These latest child cruelty figures are a stark wake-up call that our current system is struggling to prevent the horrifying abuse and neglect happening to some of the youngest and most vulnerable in our society.
“The Government has pledged to reform the child protection system to provide earlier support for babies, children and young people and stop families’ problems escalating to crisis point. The figures underline why it is urgent that these changes are delivered at pace alongside significant investment.
“We can not afford for this to be delayed any longer as there is a real danger we will continue to see these offences spiral upwards if significant change doesn’t happen."
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