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NSPCC launches scheme to help parents tackle neglect
A new scheme to help tackle neglect by supporting and challenging parents who are struggling to care for their children has been announced by the NSPCC.
Improving parenting will help parents interact better with their children and increase their communication skills.
Concern about neglect is the single biggest reason for people contacting the NSPCC helpline.
The charity said there were 180 such calls last year from NI.
Of these contacts, 138 were so serious that they required the involvement of police or children's services, a 29% increase on the previous year.
In the other cases, NSPCC helpline counsellors provided advice, support and information to callers.
Neil Anderson, NSPCC Northern Ireland National head of service, said: "The Compton Review, which has set out how health and social care will be delivered in NI in future, placed an emphasis on early intervention and prevention, with the aim of tackling issues such as neglect before problems spiral out of control.
"But social workers tell us they need better tools and training to help them identify and tackle neglect earlier.
"Parents need access to support to help them to change behaviour which is neglectful and it is encouraging that investment is being made in family support services regionally."
The charity is working with social workers and other professionals across the UK to find out what extra support and training they need.
Almost half (47%) of the 2,401 children on the child protection register in Northern Ireland in 2011 were at risk of neglect, either alone or combined with other issues, according to the Department of Health.
The NSPCC wants social workers in Northern Ireland to take part.
Neil Anderson continued: "We want members of the public to keep speaking up when they have a concern for the wellbeing of a child.
"Our work is showing that even in very challenging circumstances, families can be supported to prevent more children suffering the devastating consequences of neglect.
"Obviously there will be times when children must be protected and taken into care but our experience shows that with the right support many families can adapt and improve their behaviour.
"The costs in both financial and human terms for supporting families to change are far lower than the costs of taking children into care."
Recent figures show that there were 279 care applications in Northern Ireland last year, more than double the number in 2006/07.
The charity said the reasons for this increase were hard to pinpoint, and were likely to be complex.
NSPCC Northern Ireland would like to see the categorisation of reasons for care applications in the future in order to understand better the role neglect plays in these trends.
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