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#ChildrenAtTheTable: New data reveals continuing rise in cruelty crimes against babies and young children

27th March 2024

#ChildrenAtTheTable is a Children’s Charities Coalition, consisting of Action for Children, Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society, National Children’s Bureau and the NSPCC. Together they have released new stark figures which show that many babies and young children are not getting the safe, happy, and healthy start to life they deserve:

  • Child cruelty crimes against children aged five and under continue to rise year-on-year with a 16% increase on pre-pandemic levels and more than 9,300 offences last year.
  • NSPCC Helpline refers more than ten babies and young children to agencies such as police and social services every day because of neglect and physical abuse.
  • More than two in five children (41%) referred by the NSPCC to authorities last year related to children aged five and under. Half of those referrals were due to concerns about neglect or physical abuse, the equivalent of 11 a day.

The coalition’s #ChildrenAtTheTable campaign calls for a commitment from party leaders ahead of the General Election for an ambitious cross-government strategy to drive improvements for babies, children and young people growing up in the UK.

The charities want the next Government to show national leadership to prioritise children’s social care and invest in early intervention services to support families and protect babies and the youngest children who are at risk of abuse and neglect.

Experts widely acknowledge that the early years are a critical window of opportunity for physical, social and emotional development. Babies and young children need nurturing care and a safe home environment for their healthy development.

The charities say investment in early intervention and family help services can give all children the chance to a safer, happier and healthier start and put an end to the spiral of expensive late intervention when families reach crisis point. This must include rebuilding the health visitor workforce, as the professionals responsible for safeguarding the youngest children, and expanding family hubs.

NSPCC Chief Executive Sir Peter Wanless, on behalf of the Children’s Charities Coalition, said:

“Since the last General Election, the pandemic and the tragic deaths of Star, Arthur and many others have exposed a system that is letting down the most vulnerable babies, children and young people across the country.

“These stark figures show how the youngest babies and children are continuing to pay the price for a failure to prioritise family help and the early intervention services that can be a lifeline to families and protect children before they come to harm.

“It is time for party leaders to turn this around by committing to invest the political will and national wealth urgently needed to ensure every child grows up with the chance to thrive.”

Georgina Mayes, iHV Health Visiting Professional Lead (Quality and Policy), said:

“Reflecting on the shocking child cruelty statistics is a poignant reality: babies are our most vulnerable citizens in society.

“Health visitors are the only service that proactively and systematically sees all babies and their families. They provide a vital safety-net for vulnerable babies and children who are often invisible to other services unless their parents reach out.

“When adequately resourced, health visitors can prevent, identify and provide support to families to avoid situations reaching crisis point.”

The Institute of Health Visiting is a proud supporter of #ChildrenAtTheTable and we’re urging the next Government to make good childhoods a national priority.

You can read more about the #ChildrenAtTheTable coalition and their release of new data here.

More than 24,000 people have backed the calls and the public can add their name by signing the petition. Add your voice here.

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