Almost one referral per day made by NSPCC to agencies in Northern Ireland

Gail Sayles from NSPCC

More than 300 cases of suspected child abuse and neglect were referred to the PSNI and other agencies last year by children's charity, the NSPCC.

The new figures (337) equate to around one referral per day.

Neglect was the most common reason for charity workers scaling up their investigations, with 132 referrals being made.

The data form part of a UK-wide assessment by the charity which estimates that half a million children suffer abuse and neglect across the country.

Bronagh Muldoon, head of services for NSPCC Northern Ireland, said she acknowledges the pressure the health service was under but that failings in the care system needed addressed.

"At the NSPCC, we are acutely aware of the pressures the children’s social care system in Northern Ireland is currently under, with reports from across the five Health and Social Care Trusts of high numbers of staff vacancies and unallocated cases," she said. 

"Even before Covid-19 hit the country, children’s social care was facing extreme pressures and the impact of the pandemic has placed additional pressure on a system that is approaching crisis point.

"The Independent Review of the Children’s Social Care system in Northern Ireland, which commenced in February this year, presents a golden opportunity to address failings identified in the system and to strengthen it to ensure that it is robust enough to respond to the needs of vulnerable children and young people in Northern Ireland and secure better lifetime opportunities for them."