Report reveals scale of abuse against adolescents as NSPCC urges Government to press ahead with a recovery plans

A FLAGSHIP report by the NSPCC has revealed the scale of abuse against adolescents for the first time, with concerns lockdown put many at even greater risk of harm.

The charity’s ‘How safe are our children? 2020’ report, released today, highlights how adolescents have an increased risk of experiencing physical and sexual abuse offences. 

The wide-ranging report shows that, compared to younger children, rates of police-recorded offences against adolescents across the UK are:

·       Four times as high for physical abuse offences

·       Nine times as high for online grooming offences

·       Six times as high for sexual abuse offences

(Further details of offence types are in notes to editors)

Across the UK adolescents are twice as likely to be in care, but are less likely to be the subject of a child protection plan or on a child protection register to support them.

Despite the prevalence of serious abuse against older children in crime statistics, studies have shown the ability of adolescents to look after themselves is often overestimated and there can be a tendency for professionals to focus on teenager’s difficult behaviour rather than the causes behind it.

The report also reveals that the NSPCC Helpline received an average of 1,066 contacts a month from April to July from adults with concerns that a child or young person was being physically abused – up 53% on the pre-lockdown average.

One member of the public who contacted the NSPCC Helpline said: “I am concerned about the children of a family I know.  The parents physically fight all the time and the father takes drugs and drinks alcohol and regularly is under the influence. The eldest child, who is 14, is finding it all too much being at home.  He spoke to his school about how he felt and they have spoken to the parents but as a result his father has hit him which has left big lumps on his head.  I am so worried about him and the younger children.”*

Other key NSPCC Helpline statistics from the past four months include:

·       Concerns about emotional abuse increased by nearly a quarter

·       An average of 1,099 contacts a month from adults with concerns that a child or young person was being neglected – up 42% on the pre-lockdown average

  • Almost a quarter of all contacts from adults were about concerns on how parental behaviour was impacting on children

To counter the huge impact coronavirus has had on children, including adolescents, the NSPCC is calling on Governments to move forward with recovery planning and ensure support and services are in place so this generation do not become the lasting victims of coronavirus.

These recovery measures should include Government funding and support packages for schools to ensure they are ready to help all children and young people who need it as they return to the classroom – particularly those who may have suffered abuse, neglect or other traumatic experiences during the lockdown. 

Support needs to be put in place for teachers to enable them to confidently help children, including training on child development science and how trauma can manifest in behavioural problems or difficulties with their emotions. 

In addition,Governments need to back multi-agency partnerships between local authorities, NHS and police to work with schools to review support for vulnerable children.

These partnerships must have resources to identify and respond effectively to the risks children and young people may have experienced. They should pay particular attention to pupils who missed education during lockdown, identify those who continue to miss class and put plans in place to address any barriers to attending school. 

Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC said: “No one has been left unaffected by the uncertainty we are living through. For adolescents, already navigating perhaps the most challenging period of their lives, the impact is likely to be significant and, in some cases, lasting.

“As pupils return to education we need to be prepared to make sure schools, and teachers, children’s social care and other safeguarding partners are ready to support every young person who has suffered during lockdown. 

 “As part of their recovery and rebuilding planning, Government needs to make sure services are in place and ready to help so no child or young person who has suffered is left without support. Young people’s lives must not be derailed by the pandemic.”

Report author Holly Bentley, the NSPCC’s Senior Information Specialist, said: “Abuse and neglect can have as devastating an impact on adolescents and it was with this in mind we set out to identify the scale of abuse suffered by older children.

“Bringing this data together for the first time will give professionals a clearer understanding of the specific needs of adolescents which will be invaluable as they respond to the effects of the pandemic.”

The NSPCC’s How Safe 2021 conference ‘Safeguarding Childhood Together’ takes place on 4-5 March. Booking is open via

* “All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person. Quotes are created from real Helpline/Childline contacts but are not necessarily direct quotes.”

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