Child cruelty offences in England double in five years, police figures show

Child cruelty offences in England have doubled in five years (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Child cruelty offences in England have doubled in five years (Gareth Fuller/PA) Child cruelty offences in England have doubled in five years (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Recorded cases of adults neglecting, mistreating or assaulting children have doubled in five years, police figures show.

Freedom of information (FOI) requests to 35 forces across England show 29,405 cruelty offences recorded between April 2022 and March 2023 compared to 14,263 between April 2017 and March 2018, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said.

Reported cases of children in the country being subjected to cruelty or neglect rose year on year in that period, according to the children’s charity, which says this is because of the coronavirus pandemic and cost-of-living crisis putting struggling families under “increased strain”.

The NSPCC wants the Government to accelerate plans to reform the child protection system through greater investment amid “spiralling costs and rising demand” on services.

Its chief executive Sir Peter Wanless said:“These latest child cruelty figures are a stark wake-up call that our current system is struggling to prevent the horrifying abuse and neglect happening to some of the youngest and most vulnerable in our society.

“The Government has pledged to reform the child protection system to provide earlier support for babies, children and young people and stop families’ problems escalating to crisis point. The figures underline why it is urgent that these changes are delivered at pace alongside significant investment.

“We can not afford for this to be delayed any longer as there is a real danger we will continue to see these offences spiral upwards if significant change doesn’t happen.

“Through reform and investment, politicians can turn these figures around to ensure babies, children and young people don’t experience the scourge of abuse and neglect and, instead, can live safe, happy and healthy childhoods.”

This year has seen a number of court cases following the deaths of babies and children, including 15-month-old Jacob Lennon, 10-month-old Jacob Crouch, five-month-old Ava Mae Collard, 10-month-old Finley Boden and nine-year-old Alfie Steele, who all died between 2019 and 2021.

In 2022-23, more than 655,000 child in need assessments were completed by children’s social care to determine whether a child requires support from a service, the NSPCC said.

A Government spokesperson added: “Any instance of child cruelty is abhorrent, and perpetrators will face the full force for the law.

“To transform the support for the most vulnerable children and families, we are working at pace to deliver ambitious and wide-ranging reforms, including introducing new, dedicated multi-agency child protection teams and creating a fostering recruitment and retention programme so foster care is available to more children.

“Spend on children’s social care is now over £10 billion a year and rising, and we have invested £200 million to implement our reforms and help families overcome challenges at the earliest stage and keeping children safe from significant harm.”