13/12/2011 02:20 GMT | Updated 17/01/2012 20:17 GMT

Alcohol And Drug Abuse Risking Babies' Safety

Child protection campaigners call police or social services six times a day with concerns that babies are in serious danger, with most cases involving parental drug and alcohol abuse, figures have shown.

The NSPCC Helpline received 2,050 calls between November last year and October 2011 about babies under the age of one who were feared to be in such serious danger that the charity alerted police or social services.

A review of 144 referrals of such cases found that parental substance misuse was a factor in half of all the cases, the NSPCC said.

The charity said it was concerned there was "an even wider population of babies living in vulnerable and complex family situations with limited access to preventative services".

Research shows around 79,000 babies under the age of one in England live with a parent who is a problem drinker, the charity said.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos, an ambassador for the helpline, said: "A baby's first year provides the essential foundations for all future learning, behaviour and health. Harm at this age can have lifelong consequences. And while not all children living with parents who face addiction problems are harmed or neglected we are concerned that there is a strong correlation."

John Cameron, head of the NSPCC Helpline, urged the public to come forward when they see a child in danger.

"But we are also taking action, and calling on the Government to support us, to stop abuse and neglect happening in the first place," he said.

The charity's report, Helpline Highlight: How the NSPCC Helpline protects babies, added: "Babies depend completely on their carers to meet their physical and emotional needs, as well as to keep them safe from harm.

"Unfortunately, sometimes a baby's carers find it difficult to meet these needs. Where families have other problems such as substance misuse or domestic abuse, the risks to a baby increase. Babies are unable to ask for help so a call or an email to the NSPCC from a concerned adult could be their only hope."