Act now to snare Newham child abusers

Newham residents are being urged to act if they spot suspected child abuse as the NSPCC reports that calls to its helpline are at an all time high.

Newham Council wants people in the borough to contact children’s services if they believe a child has suffered physical injury, neglect, sexual or emotional abuse. If you think a child is in immediate danger, call the police on 999.

At the end of March 2010 the borough had 336 youngsters with child protection plans, one of the highest in London, although the figure dropped to 326 at the end of March this year.

The local authority admits it can be difficult to report someone you suspect may be hurting a child but has reassured people that any concerns raised will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Signs of physical abuse include unexplained or untreated injuries, cigarette burns, bite or belt marks, covering arms or legs unnecessarily and flinching when touched.

Neglect can include poor personal hygiene, constant hunger, underweight and a dishevelled appearance.

Emotional abuse includes self harm, extremes of emotion, sudden speech disorders and delayed development in babies while sexual abuse can give rise to stomach pains, discomfort when walking, inappropriate language or behaviour among other things.

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A spokesman for the council said: “If we believe a child has been harmed or is at risk we will try to find out what has happened and decide what support and protect will best help the family.

“In some cases, Newham police child protection team will investigate with social workers to decide whether a crime has been committed. Our work is about putting children first and protecting people who can’t protect themselves.”

Calls to the NSPCC Helpline reporting child abuse and neglect reached record levels last year with 16,385 serious cases being referred to the police or social services.

Research by the charity found nearly one in five secondary school children in the UK had been severely maltreated during childhood, most commonly through neglect. It wants a major shift in child protection policy towards earlier and more effective intervention in child cruelty cases.

John Cameron, head of the NSPCC Helpline, said: “Social workers cannot be in the community all the time. But members of the public can be their eyes and ears.”

If you are concerned about a child, you can contact Newham Children’s Services on 020 8430 2000; Police on 999 for emergencies or 020 8534 1212; NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 or Parentline Plus on 0808 800 2222.