CHILD cruelty and neglect offences in the North West of England have almost doubled over the last five years, it has been revealed.

New figures from the NSPCC shows that since 2012 in Lancashire the number of recorded offences rose from 120 to 153 in 2017/18.

Throughout the North West there were 1,009 child cruelty and neglect offences recorded by police in 2017/18, up from 587 in 2012/13.

Blackburn with Darwen Council children’s boss Maureen Bateson said: “These figures are extremely worrying and are partly driven by increasing levels of poverty in the North of England.

“Cuts to council grants and benefits by the government have made things worse.

“This year we introduced a new neglect strategy in the borough which aims to make sure people are more aware of the problem and able to recognise it. Some of the cases I have to deal with make me cry.”

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC said it was unclear why the number had risen so dramatically, but greater public awareness and improvements to how police record offences could be large contributing factors.

He added: “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.”

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

To raise awareness of child neglect - the most common type of abuse affecting UK children - the charity has launched its ‘Light For Every Childhood’ Christmas Appeal.

In the lead up to Christmas, UK landmarks have been lighting up in the charity’s trademark green in support of the appeal.

The amount of police offences is mirrored by the number of calls made to the NSPCC helpline – totalling 19,937 last year about children suffering neglect in the UK- with three quarters referred urgently to police or children’s services, which included 2,403 referrals to agencies in the North West.

One NSPCC helpline practitioner recalls a recent referral she made to the police.

Tracey Hamer, NSPCC helpline practitioner 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 could