Reports of emotional abuse against children rose 200% in seven years, says NSPCC

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There has been a "huge increase" in reports of emotional abuse against children, a leading children's charity has warned.

NSPCC said that it has seen a 200% increase over seven years in the number of calls to its helpline from people concerned about children being subjected to emotional abuse.

The charity said its helpline staff are hearing accounts of parents telling their children they hate them or wished they were dead, threatening them with extreme violence and blaming them for issues they are facing themselves such as unemployment or financial problems.

The number of calls to the NSPCC Helpline rose from 3,341 in 2009/10 to 10,009 in 2016/17, the charity said.

Three quarters of these reports were deemed so severe they were referred to the police and/or children's services.

But the charity said that the full scale of the problem could be much bigger.

It has called on the Government to commission a new national study examining prevalence of child abuse and neglect in the UK - with the last study taking place in 2009.

The NSPCC Helpline responded to 66,218 contacts in 2016/17 from adults concerned about a child - its highest ever number.

"Hearing reports from our Helpline about parents or carers who are consistently verbally assaulting, bullying, isolating or humiliating their children is devastating," said NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless.

"The huge increase in people recognising and reporting emotional abuse to our helpline indicates people are willing to take action, but the disturbing truth is that the UK has no idea how many other children are suffering from emotional abuse or in fact, any type of abuse.

"We urgently need Government to step in now, before another eight years go by, and commission a study that gives us the clearest possible picture of the extent of child abuse and neglect in the UK."

Emotional abuse can involve deliberately trying to scare or humiliate a child or isolating or ignoring them.

NSPCC warned that emotional abuse can make children feel worthless and unloved and can have a profound effect on their development.

Children who are emotionally abused may also be experiencing or be at risk of another type of abuse or neglect, such as physical abuse.

Possible signs of emotional abuse include:

:: A child being overly affectionate towards strangers or people they haven't known for very long.

:: Youngsters having a lack of confidence or become wary or anxious.

:: Children being aggressive or nasty towards other children and/or animals.

:: Children struggling to control strong emotions or having extreme outbursts.

:: A lack social skills or having few, or no, friends.

Any adult worried about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.

Meanwhile, a new report from the think tank Localis claimed that mental health provision for young people needs radical overhaul.

The report authors estimate that more than half a million young people with mental health problems will not receive NHS-funded community mental care by 2020/2021.

They make a series of recommendations including suggesting that mental health services should be provided in schools to prevent youngsters slipping through the net.

Localis chief executive Liam Booth-Smith said: "We are at risk, as a nation, of failing an entire generation of vulnerable young people who need specialist support.

"Currently, the system is bedevilled by months-long waiting lists because it fails to differentiate between young people in crisis and those close to it - a situation that makes vulnerable young people feel like nobody cares and nothing can be done."