'Disturbing' increase in child cruelty and neglect across Suffolk and Essex
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Reports of child cruelty and neglect in Essex have risen five-fold over the last five years, new figures reveal.
An NSPCC study shows there were 273 offences recorded by Essex police last year, up from 53 just five years before.
There has also been a rise in Suffolk, with police recording a total of 98 offences in 2018/19 - up from 53 in 2013/14.
Nationwide, a total of 20,024 child cruelty and neglect offences were recorded last year.
This figure has more than doubled over the last five years, from 9,518 in 2013/14.
Peter Wanless, CEO of NSPCC, said: "To see year after year the number of neglect and cruelty offences rise so dramatically is disturbing.
"Greater public awareness and improvements in police recording could be factors in this continuous increase, but deeper societal issues such as increasing pressure on parents and a lack of investment in early intervention services, are leaving more children vulnerable and exposed to pain and suffering.
"Whatever the reasons for the rise cruelty to children is never ok, it is vital that children always have a place they can go to seek help and support."
A spokesman for Essex Police said: "In Essex, we are continuing to see a rise in reports of child neglect and child cruelty offences, which is in line with figures from across the UK.
"The specialist detectives and officers in our Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT) work closely with partners, including social services and local schools, to monitor any reports of offences against children.
"We work tirelessly to protect and safeguard children and young people, who are some of the most vulnerable victims we deal with, and work alongside other professionals who can offer appropriate support to those who may be suffering the physical or mental impact of abuse.
"This year, we formed a dedicated non-recent sexual abuse team, who have had more than 80 crimes reported since forming in February 2019.
"This allows our Child Abuse Investigations Team, who would normally investigate these offences, to focus on a higher volume of more recent crime, which includes child cruelty and neglect.
"Funded by the recent increase in council tax, we are also starting to recruit for a complex child abuse investigation team, and we're aiming to have these officers in place by early 2020.
"As members of the public become more aware of these offences and how to report them, and in increased capacity in our officers, we've seen an unsurprising rise in these crimes.
"These offences are monstrous and we will continue to work to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice."
Detective Superintendent David Henderson of Suffolk Police said: "The increase in child cruelty and neglect offences may be due to increased public awareness of offences, along with an increased confidence in reporting offences to police.
"Early stage intervention and close partnership working is vital, and an increase in offence detection rates is also a contributory factor.
"The adoption of the internationally recognised 'Signs of Safety' approach to neglect cases, along with ongoing neglect awareness training, leads to an increased chance of recognising the signs by police and partners working in the community.
"Investigations into child abuse are very varied and complex and our response will see each case individually assessed and see us working with a number of agencies including the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub which involves police, county council, education and health, among others to address issues of risk of harm, abuse and neglect.
"We always put the victim at the centre of our approach.
"The constabulary continues to develop its approach in relation to children and young people through external engagement with other agencies and boards such as the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership, Gangs and Youth Violence Board and the Suffolk Youth Offending Service and this partnership work is key to ensuring our focus is on the protection of children."