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  • Writer's pictureTom Hopkins-Burke

Rise in emotional abuse calls to Childline in last 12 months

New data from the NSPCC reveals a five per cent increase in the number of counselling sessions delivered by the Childline service to children experiencing emotional abuse.

Between April 2023 and March 2024, Childline delivered 2,879 sessions on emotional abuse, with 52 per cent of these sessions relating to being shouted at or verbally abused. Being criticised, humiliated and called names was the next most common sub-concern.

On average, eight children a day contact the service about emotional abuse, with children mentioning being isolated or ignored, not being allowed to have friends and receiving blame for things they had not done.

"I honestly want to leave my house and run and run and never look back"

In the last year alone, 99,630 children were identified through Child in Need assessments as experiencing emotional abuse - the highest number of assessments for all types of abuse and neglect.

A Child in Need Assessment identifies the needs of the child and ensures that families are given the appropriate support to help them safeguard and promote the child's welfare.

One young person said:

"I love my dad. He does not shout or swear or call me horrible names like mum. I feel way safer at his house. I don't at mum's - she's really scary. Just yesterday, she screamed at my sister to 'shut the F up!' I honestly want to leave my house and run and run and never look back - but I can't. What do I do?"

Sir Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said:

"Half a million children a year suffer abuse in the UK. That means seven children in a classroom experience abuse before they turn 18. This can't go on and it doesn't have to.

"It's devastating to hear that contacts to Childline on emotional abuse are on the increase. We must remember that these are not children who are being overly sensitive or dislike being disciplined. They are being psychologically abused by the people who are there to protect them."

'Shouting at children can be as damaging as physical or sexual abuse'

Studies published in the past 12 months have shown the consequences of emotional abuse.

A study led by Mark Bellis found that, from a sample of 20,556 UK residents, those who had been verbally abused were almost twice as likely as those who had not to use cannabis or to end up in jail.

Another UK survey of 1,000 11- to 17-year-olds found that 41 per cent said that adults - mainly parents, carers, teachers and friends' parents - frequently used hurtful and upsetting words to blame, insult or criticise them. More than half of these said that they experienced this behaviour weekly.

Professor Peter Fonagy from University College London said:

"Children are genetically prepared to trust what adults say. They take us grownups seriously. If we betray that trust by using words to abuse rather than teach, this can leave children not just ashamed, isolated and excluded, but also unable to engage with their community and draw the full benefit of social learning."

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