Almost one third of Northern Ireland callers to NSPCC helpline have child protection concerns for six months before making call.
The NSPCC has today revealed that approximately a third (32 per cent) of Northern Ireland callers to its Helpline last year, whose contact resulted in a referral to police or children’s services, waited more than six months to speak out. A further 21 per cent delayed seeking help by between one and six months.In 2011/12 the NSPCC Helpline responded to 691 contacts from people in Northern Ireland – an increase of 58 per cent on the previous year. 77 referrals were made to police or children’s services in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust area during this period. Launching its first nation-specific ‘Helpline Highlight’, the children’s charity emphasised the service’s role in providing the Northern Ireland public with an independent source of help and advice, where there are concerns about the welfare of children. Margaret Gallagher, local campaigns coordinator for the NSPCC in Northern Ireland, said that delays in reporting concerns may contribute to the undue distress and suffering of a child experiencing abuse or neglect: “We understand that it’s incredibly difficult to pick up the phone, and we are really grateful to those people who do take action when they have concerns. People clearly have the desire to act but are unsure how or when to do it. What we would emphasise is that trained professionals assess the information given and either give advice and support to the caller or make a referral to children’s services or police if required. You can’t be expected to know for certain and that’s where the NSPCC can help. “Many of the children whom adults contact us about are not known to existing services. Most of the referrals made by the helpline concerned neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse, and largely originate from adults who might otherwise contact no other agency.” The majority of contacts leading to referrals came from members of the public, not from family members or professionals explained Margaret Gallagher. She said: “While many of the contacts to the helpline simply result in our counsellors providing child protection advice and guidance to parents, relatives, friends and members of the public… the key message we want to send is ‘Don’t Wait Until You’re Certain’.” Welcoming the development of a Memorandum of Understanding between the NSPCC and the HSCB, which aims to establish a seamless interface with Gateway services, Neil Anderson, head of NSPCC services in Northern Ireland added: “The important thing for everyone to know is that this an around-the-clock service where adults can report, or seek advice on, child protection concerns. We will continue to work with colleagues in the statutory and voluntary sectors, and the general public in Northern Ireland, to raise awareness of the helpline.” The NSPCC Helpline is a telephone and online service for adults who are concerned about the welfare of a child or young person. It provides adults with advice, guidance and support, and can take action on their behalf if they have concerns about a child who is either being abused or is at risk of abuse. Contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 (free from a landline), firstname.lastname@example.org, visitwww.nspcc.org.uk/helpline Other sources of help include Gateway Services in each Health and Social Care trust: Belfast Trust: 028 9050 7000 South Eastern Trust: 0300 1000 300 Northern Trust: 0300 1234 333 Southern Trust: 0800 7837 745 Western Trust: 028 71314090 Police Service of Northern Ireland: