Child cruelty and neglect cases rise in Northern Ireland

Unhappy child
Unhappy child
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The number of child cruelty and neglect cases has more than doubled in five years in Northern Ireland.

Police recorded 500 instances of adults mistreating, neglecting or assaulting young people last year, the NSPCC said.

Potential reasons for the rise included increasing pressure on families.

Neil Anderson, head of NSPCC NI, said: "To see the number of neglect and cruelty offences rise so dramatically is disturbing but sadly not surprising."

In Northern Ireland there were 500 child cruelty and neglect offences recorded by police in 2018/19, more than double the 184 in 2013/14.

Reports included extreme cases of when parents or carers deliberately abandoned or exposed their child to serious harm and unnecessary suffering.

In 2018/19, the NSPCC's adult helpline dealt with 984 child welfare contacts in Northern Ireland, and neglect was the second most common reason for referral.

Mr Anderson said greater public awareness could be a factor in these increases, but deeper societal issues such as increasing pressure on parents could also be leaving more children vulnerable and exposed to pain and suffering.

He added: "Whatever the reasons for the rise, cruelty to children is never OK, it is vital that children always have a place they can go to seek help and support, day and night.

"Childline never stops and never sleeps, but for this to continue we need the public's support and to back our Light For Every Childhood appeal."

The charity is running its Light For Every Childhood Christmas appeal to raise awareness of neglect and abuse.

Belfast Castle, Battersea Power Station, Blackpool Tower, University of Cambridge and other landmarks will light up green in support.