Child agencies ‘like a 999 service after Savile’

The Jimmy Savile scandal opened the floodgates over sexual abuse. Picture: Johnstone Press
The Jimmy Savile scandal opened the floodgates over sexual abuse. Picture: Johnstone Press
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CHILD abuse charity NSPCC said an increase in calls to its helpline was partially due to adults wanting to share concerns about a child in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal and other high-profile sexual abuse cases.

The organisation said calls to its helpline rose 15 per cent last year, with more than 50,000 people seeking help, and almost a fifth of the 50,989 calls it received in 2012-13 about sexual abuse related to historic cases.

The figures were published in the NSPCC’s annual report How Safe Are Our Children? The charity deals with all types of child harm including sexual and emotional abuse and neglect.

The report also warned that cash-strapped child protection agencies were now acting as little more than emergency services following a surge of reports of abuse in the wake of the Savile scandal. The charity said that record numbers of people coming forward coupled with tough economic times meant struggling children’s social services were only able to focus on the worst cases.

To tackle the problem, it called for all professionals who come into contact with children to take responsibility for detecting and preventing abuse and neglect.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “With record reporting of child abuse, hard-pressed children’s social service departments have little choice but to raise the threshold of where they act. This is leaving large numbers of children with no statutory support. Acting alone, children’s social services struggle to be more than an emergency service, getting involved when pain and suffering for children is already entrenched or risk is very high.”

According to the research there were 3,369 recorded sexual offences against under-18s in Scotland last year. This includes 285 cases of rape or attempted rape of children under the age of 16. There were 1,463 recorded offences of cruelty and neglect – down almost a quarter since the 2009-10 peak of 1,919 offences.

The number of children on a child protection register (CPR) in Scotland between 2002 and 2012 increased by 34 per cent, the report said. There were 2,706 children on a CPR at the end of July 2012.

The research highlighted the NSPCC’s concern over the rising trend of online abuse, citing an 87 per cent increase in counselling sessions about cyber bullying from 2011-12, while 132 children were referred to its Child Trafficking Advice Centre between November 2012 and October 2013.

Matt Forde, national head of service for NSPCC Scotland, said: “This report underlines the importance of the early help services which might support families to stay on track and prevent problems escalating.

“We must make real the vision that child protection is the responsibility of us all: family members, neighbours, friends, and our whole public service infrastructure. It is teachers, nursery workers, police officers, doctors, nurses and all professionals who come into contact with children.”