New NSPCC figures reveal a huge rise in the number of people getting in touch about child abuse and neglect during the festive period.

Across the UK, the charity’s helpline, which takes calls and emails from adults who have concerns about a child, received a total of 3,750 contacts in December 2015. The number is up by a third over four years, from 2,800, showing that whilst December may be a wonderful month for many, for some it is a time of heightened risk and increased vulnerability.

In Wales, 137 adults contacted the helpline in December last year, up from 116 in 2011. Of those contacts, 45 were from people reporting cases of neglect, up from 37 four years ago.

Overall there was a 60 per cent rise in reports of neglect across the UK, with 1,129 contacts in December last year, up from 703 in 2011.

Meanwhile, reports of physical abuse, the second most frequently cited UK concern in December 2015, had gone up 48 per cent to 764. And 544 reports came in about emotional abuse in the month of December last year – up 44 per cent from the same period in 2011.

December can be a particularly difficult time for families and vulnerable children who are often isolated and without the safety net of the school environment.

Signs of neglect can include the child frequently appearing poorly clothed or dirty, or if the child tries to steal food. Children who are being abused might have physical injuries, appear more withdrawn than usual or might fear certain adults.

One member of the public got in touch with the helpline with concerns about parents taking drugs and after seeing their children weren’t being cared for.

The caller said: “The mother is holding parties around the house all the time with male strangers in and out of the family home. Sometimes I can smell drugs from the house and I know the children are inside.

“The children are always dirty and look under nourished; I’m really worried for them and I feel helpless. Please can you advise; this has got to stop.”

Another caller reported: “I’m really concerned about a young girl that I know who has started to started to say some worrying things about what happens when she stays over at a male relative’s house in the school holidays.

“I think she might be being sexually abused. She recently told me about a game they play at bedtime where her and the adult male get under the covers and that it’s their little secret. She has become much more withdrawn in the last year and I wonder if this is the reason. I have tried to raise the concern with family members, but they tell me to mind my own business, what can I do?”

Head of NSPCC Cymru / Wales, Des Mannion, said: “The festive season should be a happy time of year to be shared with loved ones, but sadly that is not the case for all children in Wales.

“Abuse doesn’t stop in December and during the holidays children can become isolated from the wider community and their support network. Problems faced throughout the year can be magnified in the run up to Christmas.

“It’s deeply worrying that we are seeing an increase in contacts, but it’s positive that people are vigilant and reporting any concerns they might have about the welfare of a child rather than standing by.”

The NSPCC’s helpline can be contacted 24 hours a day on 0808 800 5000.

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