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Public bodies and NSPCC launch citywide campaign to prevent child neglect

NSPCC Neglect campaign - Since 2010, neglect has been the reason for over a third of child protection plans in Birmingham

Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board (BSCB) – of which Birmingham Community Healthcare is a key member – has joined forces with the NSPCC on a major campaign to help prevent child neglect.

The ‘Help’ campaign, is urging people in Birmingham to seek help straight away, if they or someone they know is struggling to cope.

NSPCC statistics show that, over the last three years, no fewer than three quarters of calls about neglect to the charity’s helpline from people in Birmingham were already so serious they had to be immediately referred to the police or social services.

Since 2010, neglect has been the reason for over a third of child protection plans in Birmingham and the city isn’t alone in this – neglect is the most common reason for a child to be the subject of a child protection plan or on a child protection register in the UK

Neglect is far easier to stop when it is caught early and most families can be supported to turn around their problems. But longer term neglect can cause lifelong issues for children and is far harder to tackle.

Neglect is when a parent or carer doesn’t meet the basic needs of their children. This may mean that their children don’t regularly get the essential things they need to keep them happy, safe and well – food and water, cleanliness, a safe place to live, adequate clothing, medical care, play, education and love and affection.

The complex and often hidden nature of neglect – particularly emotional neglect – means that the problems often go undetected or unreported. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of neglect, to help people recognise when they, or someone they know, might need help and support.

People are being urged not to wait, but to contact the free, 24hr NSPCC helpline (0808 800 5000) for early help and advice if they, or someone they know, is struggling to cope and needs a helping hand. They can be anonymous if that’s what they’d prefer and the NSPCC can help them in supporting their own family and others.

NSPCC Neglect campaign - three quarters of calls about neglect to the charity’s helpline from people in Birmingham were already so serious they had to be immediately referred to the police or social services.

There is a range of early help services available for families in Birmingham. BCHC’s universal children’s services such as health visiting and school nursing have a key role to play in ensuring timely access to support is available.

Jane Held, independent chair of Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board, said: “Birmingham is a large and vibrant city and is home to approximately 287,000 children under the age of 19, one of the youngest populations of any European city.

"It is also a city with areas of significant deprivation, with only 6 of the 40 wards in the city having fewer children living in poverty than the national average.

“Most families, including families living in poverty, parent their children very well, often despite the odds, but many find poverty the final straw.

“We know that parents want to care for their children well, but many face problems with domestic violence, mental illness, drugs and alcohol misuse, with homelessness, unemployment, and debt and struggle to care for themselves, no matter for their children.

“As a safeguarding board, we want all children in the city to grow up safe, healthy, happy and well cared for emotionally as well as physically. The evidence in Birmingham is that too many do not get the help they need early enough to stop the early signs of neglect. That means too many children have experienced tough and difficult lives for too long, before they get the help they need.

“All the partners on the board are working together to develop better more extensive ‘early help and family support’ services so that help can be given earlier.

"Social workers know that early help will reduce the need for them to intervene and families prefer to get help early rather than face state intervention. Because of the scale of these issues in the city, it is crucial we do not accept poor parenting but look to help parents cope better. If anyone is concerned about a child, please make that phone call.”