Concern as reports of emotional abuse in East Midlands soar

Peter Wanless
Peter Wanless

Reports to a children’s charity of youngsters in the East Midlands being emotionally abused soared by a third last year.

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 doubled in seven years.

However, the NSPCC fears the full scale of the problem could be much greater and has called upon the Government to commission a study looking into the prevalence of child abuse and neglect.

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 more than 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.

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.”

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 at risk of another type of abuse or neglect. Adults with concerns about children should call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.