Surge in 'emotional abuse' claims

Banbury Cake: There is a surge in claims of emotional abuse, experts say. There is a surge in claims of emotional abuse, experts say.

The number of emotional abuse cases being referred by a children's charity helpline to police and children's services has surged by nearly 50% in the last year.

The NSPCC's anonymous helpline, which supports and offers advice to adults who are worried about a child, has assisted more than 8,000 people who have with concerns for children suffering from emotional neglect and abuse this year, with 5,354 of these cases so serious they were referred to local authorities. Last year, 3,629 such cases were referred.

In an example of an emotional abuse call to the NSPCC, a member of the public contacted the helpline with concerns about a teenager who was routinely being singled out and belittled by his stepfather.

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.

More 60,000 people in total have contacted the helpline this year, which is an increase of 21% compared to last 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, the NSPCC said.

John Cameron, head of child protection operations, said: "Emotional neglect and abuse cause real harm to children and we are supporting more people than ever before who want a safe, non-judgmental place in which to talk through their concerns.

"As a result of this we are able to recognise the most serious cases and are referring an unprecedented number of emotional neglect and abuse cases to children's services and the police.

"The Government has indicated they are set to outlaw extreme emotional cruelty and this is a positive step forward and the publicity around this and highly publicised cases such as Daniel Pelka may have contributed to the sharp increase in calls.

"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."

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