Complaints about children emotionally abused by their parents up by nearly half


Complaints about children being bullied, ignored and intimidated by their parents have risen sharply over the past year, a children’s charity has warned.

The NSPCC referred more than 5,350 complaints about emotional neglect or emotional abuse of children to the police or social services in 2013/14, compared to just 3,629 the previous year.

Cases such as that of Daniel Pelka, the four-year-old who was starved and beaten for months before he died in March 2012, may have triggered the surge by heightening the public’s awareness of emotional abuse, the charity said.

The charity’s anonymous helpline, which supports and offers advice to adults who are worried about a child, has taken calls from more than 8,000 people to report concerns about children suffering from emotional neglect and abuse this year.

Of these 5,354 were so serious they have been referred to police or social workers for further action.

In one case, a member of the public contacted the helpline with concerns about a teenager who was routinely being singled out and belittled by his stepfather.

In another case, helpline workers called in social workers after being told about two teenagers who were being emotionally abused by their mother who would scream at them, calling them stupid and saying that she hated them but threatening to kill herself if they severed contact.

More than 60,000 people have contacted the charity’s helpline this year which is an increase of 21 per cent compared to last year. 

The figures come as the Government considers a change to the law to tackle the emotional neglect and abuse of children. The so called Cinderella law would update the 1933 criminal offence of child cruelty to include emotional neglect and abuse as well as physical abuse.

John Cameron, head of child protection operations, said: “We must recognise extreme emotional abuse for what it is - a crime - and those who carry it out should be prosecuted. This isn’t about prosecuting parents who don’t buy their children the latest gadgets or trainers this is about parents who consistently deny their children love and affection.

“We must ensure we support children’s services and that the police are given better powers to prosecute those who subject children to emotional neglect and abuse – that is why the NSPCC supports the proposed changes to the law to tackle this issue. But a law alone is not enough – what we really need to do is work together to prevent this abuse happening in the first place.”