OPINION: NSPCC can help you spot the signs of child abuse

The NSPCC can help you detect signs of child abuse

The NSPCC can help you detect signs of child abuse - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Emma Motherwell, from the NSPCC, says  we have a responsibility to protect our children

It can be difficult to understand what children and young people have gone through in this last year, but at the NSPCC we know that many have struggled and are still struggling today.

We have been there for them via our Childline service, where our trained counsellors have heard them discuss domestic abuse, loneliness and isolation among many other worries and concerns.

Mental health, understandably, has remained the top concern since March 2020 and its important children and young people feel fully supported.

We all need to be there for children and young people, because if we work together we can better understand the experiences they’ve had during the pandemic and ensure that they have access to the right support now, helping to reduce any potential long-term impact.

During lockdown, it made it more difficult for many of us to detect abuse and neglect in our communities as children were spending more time at home away from school, their teachers and peers.

Everyone has a responsibility to help safeguard children and although lockdowns and restrictions presented challenges, calls still came through to our NSPCC helpline from adults concerned about the increased levels of shouting and aggression from a nearby house or via bystanders reporting worries from an incident they witnessed.

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With the summer holidays around the corner we’re asking the public to be ever vigilant and if they notice anything worrying to get in touch to seek confidential advice or in an emergency to contact the police.

Detecting abuse and neglect isn’t always straightforward and the NSPCC website has some tips to help, although if there is any worry it’s worth making the call to our helpline for further advice and assistance.

The signs of abuse aren’t always obvious, and often children and young people don’t realise they’re being abused either.

Abuse is harder to detect in a child we don’t know well, but children suffering in this way will often be very socially withdrawn and may also have knowledge about adult issues that stretch far beyond the appropriate age.

Other signs that a child or young person may be being abused are a change in behaviour, such as becoming uncharacteristically aggressive or more anxious.

When it comes to neglect, it can take four different forms. These are physical, where a child’s basic needs such a food, clothing and shelter are not met; emotional, where a child is being ignored or humiliated; educational, and medical. A child who is neglected may experience some or all of these.

Sometimes a parent doesn’t intentionally neglect their child and it is possible the family is experiencing difficult times, which is why it’s important to remember that the NSPCC is here to give advice as well.

If a child or young person discloses abuse it’s important to listen, to reassure them, but also make them aware that the disclosure must be reported for their own safety. Ensure they know it’s not their fault, and reassure them that they will be listened to and that they have done the right thing by speaking out, then explain what actions now need to be taken. Even though it may be tempting, do not confront the abuser as this can make things worse, just report it as soon as possible.

For free and confidential advice adults with child welfare concerns can contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk. Children can contact Childline any day of the week about anything causing them concern. They can speak to a trained counsellor online via childline.org.uk or on 0800 1111.