CHILD cruelty and neglect offences have risen dramatically in Dorset over the last five years, the NSPCC has revealed.

According to figures from the children’s charity, 34 incidents were reported by Dorset Police in 2012/13, compared to 422 in 2017/18.

The biggest rise in offences reported was between 2015/16 and 2016/17, with the number increasing from 93 to 504.

It brings the total number of child cruelty and neglect reports in Dorset to 1,102 over the last five years.

Reports to the police included extreme cases of when a parent or carer deliberately neglected, assaulted, abandoned or exposed their child to serious harm.

Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said it was “unclear exactly why the number of child neglect and cruelty offences has risen so dramatically”.

But, he added, “greater public awareness and improvements in how police record offences could be factors, along with deeper societal issues.”

He said: “Whatever the reasons for the increase in child neglect there is something we can all do about it now. We need to be aware of vulnerable children and be ready to report it to the NSPCC or the authorities if we are concerned for their safety or wellbeing.”

According to the NSPCC, the number of recorded offences of this type reveal only a fraction of neglect cases, as social workers will step-in when parents cannot meet the needs of their child. They put a plan in place to prevent issues from escalating.

Last year there were 27,856 children in the UK on a child protection plan or register for concerns involving neglect.

To raise awareness of child neglect, the NSPCC has launched its Light For Every Childhood Christmas appeal.

On Saturday night (December 1), Bournemouth’s Christmas Wonderland tree lit up green to promote the campaign.

The charity says the amount of offences reported to police is mirrored by the number of calls made to the NSPCC helpline – totalling 19,937 last year about children suffering neglect - with three quarters referred urgently to police or children’s services.

In the South West, the charity made 1,486 referrals to police, child protection agencies and local authorities.

Tracey Hamer, NSPCC helpline practitioner, recalled a recent referral she made to the police.

She said: “The police went out to do a welfare check, and later told me that mum had been found unwell and violently vomiting and unable to care for her 3-year-old daughter.

“The house was in a state of disrepair and the kitchen worktops were covered in dirty crockery with mould on them. The washing machine was broken, and mum said that water would come up through the pipes when she tried to use it so she couldn’t clean any clothes."

The NSPCC Christmas Appeal is calling for donations to its helpline - which is open throughout the holidays – so it can be there for children suffering from neglect at Christmas and all year round.