One in five adults in Scotland are unsure where to seek help about suspected child abuse despite worries about the heightened risks to young people during the lockdown.
The NSPCC surveyed over 2,000 adults in Britain, which included 179 in Scotland, and found that north of the border 20% were not confident they would know where to get advice if they thought a child or young person was being abused or neglected.
The findings also revealed that more adults in Scotland were worried about the impact of the lockdown on children suffering domestic abuse than any other type of harm, with 81% reporting they were ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ concerned, compared to 79% for emotional abuse and 77% for neglect.
There is growing concern for the safety of vulnerable children during the coronavirus crisis, particularly as teachers and social workers have limited access to them with most not taking up the places at school allocated to them.
The Scottish Government’s update last month on supporting vulnerable children during the pandemic reported a reduction in child protection and domestic abuse referrals in Scotland.
That is why the NSPCC has launched a nationwide campaign, backed by survivors and £1.6million of Government funding, to ensure more people know they can raise concerns about child safety and wellbeing to its Helpline. People can also contact the police or their local social work department.
Jess, 29, was emotionally abused by her father who beat her mother throughout her childhood. He was later jailed for an attack on his new partner after Jess and her mother gave evidence against him in court.
“Our lives could have been completely changed. If there had been an intervention earlier on, then we perhaps would have been able to escape sooner. He may not have gone on to carry out the same abuse on his next partner and her son.
“Even if your concern turns out to be something that was misheard or misinterpreted, make the call because it is always better to be safe rather than sorry. One phone call and you have the potential to change a child’s life, to save them.”
Ian, 51, was aged 6 when his father returned from hospital after suffering a heart attack and started becoming violent towards Ian’s mum and later Ian as well.
“Please report anything that’s wrong, or if you suspect someone else might be going through this, then make sure that’s reported also. The long-term effects are lifelong potentially. I still have regular nightmares now, I always will, but by dealing with the situation as soon as it happens a victim gets that support and help much quicker and a perpetrator is dealt with much sooner. Although I will live with this forever, we can easily prevent someone else from having to.”
Kam Thandi, Head of NSPCC Helpline, said: “It is terrible to think that cases of child abuse and neglect may be going unreported because people don’t know where to go to for help and advice.
“At the moment, we’re increasingly reliant on the public to come forward with their concerns and if reports drop we fear abusers will have free reign to harm children, both physically and emotionally.
“Even if you are not 100% sure, we urge any adult who is worried for the safety or wellbeing of a child to contact our helpline. We can answer any questions and concerns, provide reassurance or importantly take quick action if we feel a child is in danger.”
Spotting the signs of abuse or neglect may be more difficult in the present climate, but indicators can include:
- aggressive or repeated shouting
- hearing hitting or things being broken
- children crying for long periods of time
- very young children left alone or are outdoors by themselves
- children looking dirty or not changing their clothes
- children being withdrawn or anxious
To help workers who regularly visit homes, such as postal workers and delivery drivers, spot safeguarding concerns the NSPCC has made a 15-minute safeguarding course free.
The NSPCC Helpline is available for advice and support on 0808 800 5000 or via email@example.com. The trained helpline staff can offer advice and make informed decisions about whether further support is potentially needed for a child and their family.
If you suspect a child or young person is in immediate danger call the police immediately on 999. Alternatively, contact the children’s social care team at your local council.