Reports of children being emotionally abused soared by an alarming 33 per cent in the East Midlands last year, according to new figures released by the NSPCC
In 2016/17 the NSPCC Helpline received 727 contacts from people in the region who were concerned about children being subjected to emotional abuse – up from 546 contacts in 2014/15.
Across the UK reports of emotional abuse have risen by 200 per cent in seven years.
However, the NSPCC fears that the full scale of the problem could be much greater and is demanding that the Government commissions a nationwide study that looks at the prevalence of child abuse and neglect in the UK.
Helpline staff are hearing accounts of parents telling their children they hate them or wished they were dead, threatening them with extreme violence and blaming them for issues they are facing themselves - such as unemployment or financial problems.
The charity’s annual child protection report ‘How Safe Are Our Children’ found that since 2009/10 the number of helpline contacts related to emotional abuse from across the UK had risen from 3,341 to 10,009, the equivalent of 27 a day.
In the East Midlands over 82 per cent (597) of last year’s 727 reports were deemed so severe they were referred to the police and/or children’s services.
Despite a huge increase in the amount of people reporting emotional abuse to the NSPCC Helpline, it is unclear how many more children in the UK are suffering from emotional abuse, or any other form of maltreatment, because of a lack of research in to the extent of abuse.
The last study of this kind was conducted in 2009 by the NSPCC. Since then there have been significant changes for children’s lives, not least the increase in reporting of online abuse, and big increases in reporting of child sexual abuse.
On-going emotional abuse can make children feel worthless and unloved and can have a profound effect on a child’s development, which can lead to issues in later life, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance misuse and suicidal feelings.
Children who are emotionally abused may also be experiencing or be at risk of another type of abuse or neglect, the NSPCC Helpline has heard from people who were repeatedly worried that the emotional abuse they witnessed would turn into physical abuse.
Helpline practitioners identified three common themes raised by callers concerned that a child was being emotionally abused. These included domestic violence, alcohol or substance abuse, and mental health issues.
Because there’s an element of emotional abuse in all other types of child abuse and neglect, it can be difficult to spot the signs and to separate what’s emotional abuse from other types of abuse. The NSPCC has published advice on the signs you may notice in a child’s actions or emotions:
· be overly-affectionate towards strangers or people they haven’t known for very long
· lack confidence or become wary or anxious
· be aggressive or nasty towards other children and/or animals
· struggle to control strong emotions or have extreme outbursts
· lack social skills or have few, if any, friends
Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said: “Hearing reports from our Helpline about parents or carers who are consistently verbally assaulting, bullying, isolating or humiliating their children is devastating.
“The huge increase in people recognising and reporting emotional abuse to our Helpline indicates people are willing to take action, but the disturbing truth is that the UK has no idea how many other children are suffering from emotional abuse or in fact, any type of abuse.
“We urgently need Government to step in now, before another eight years go by, and commission a study that gives us the clearest possible picture of the extent of child abuse and neglect in the UK.”
Any adult worried about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.