Child neglect has been staring us in the face for too long. Headlines relate the tragic stories of children who grow up shockingly deprived and, in extreme cases, die because of neglect. These children not only lack basic essentials like nutritious food and adequate clothing, they also lack the love, support and warmth that every youngster needs to thrive.
These stories, combined with the campaigning efforts of organisations like Action for Children, mean that more people than ever are telling us that they are concerned about the welfare or safety of a child in their area. In our latest research, more than a third of UK adults said they have felt very or quite worried about this, an increase of nearly ten per cent on last year.
While 67 per cent said they believe people should become involved when they have concerns about a child being neglected, nearly half said they needed more information about sources of assistance and advice about their misgivings.
These figures suggest an encouraging increase in public awareness of neglect, but it is appalling that those eager to support suffering children feel unable to do so because of a lack of information. Friends, neighbours, the owner of a local corner shop - these individuals within a community can be crucial to a child's safety.
Understandably, many people are apprehensive about expressing concern at all. Our survey showed that nearly 35 per cent of adults hadn't told anyone about their fears for a child's safety because of the risk of repercussions such as causing trouble for the people involved, or themselves, if those fears were unfounded. Nearly 35 per cent said they simply didn't know who to tell.
Suspecting or witnessing that a child is being abused or neglected is a difficult thing for anyone to deal with and it can be hard to know what to do next. We all need to keep children safe and it's better to trust your instincts and to do something, rather than ignore a situation where a child may be suffering.
Neglect is our biggest problem, the number one reason for child protection referrals to social services, but there is no vision to tackle it. To protect more children, we need a national strategy to command political and public support for change: only this commitment from Government will truly change children's lives.
Action for Children is calling for a national strategy on child neglect that includes a public awareness campaign containing clear, concise information about where children and adults can seek advice and report their fears.
It is nearly impossible for children in desperate situations to seek help by themselves. You can be that neighbour, that acquaintance, that friend who throws them a life-line. With the Government's help, everyone can take action for children.