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August 4, 2009

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Abuse reports jump after Peter's death

CHILDREN'S charity the NSPCC said yesterday callers reporting serious child abuse to its help line had jumped by more than a third since the death of Baby Peter two years ago.

The figures came as the industry's main union, UNISON, warned that social workers were already overstretched and that morale is at "rock bottom."

The charity said it believed Baby Peter's death in August 2007 in appalling circumstances had triggered the rise in calls, with more people apparently willing to report abuse.

Peter died after suffering more than 50 injuries during months of abuse at his home in Haringey in north London.

Many of the calls were about children being physically assaulted, sexually abused or badly neglected. Most came from neighbors, relatives and friends of the family, it said.

"Fortunately people seem to be more aware of children who might be at risk of serious harm and are taking action to help them," said the charity's Christine Renouf, who is director of the helpline.

"The brutal torture and death of Baby Peter was terrible, but we know it was a wake-up call for some people to look out for children," she said.

In the year to March 2009 the NSPCC said it had passed on 11,243 suspected abuse cases to police and social services - an increase of more than a third over two years.

The charity said more than one in three of calls referred last year concerned families who were not known to local protection agencies.

It also said authorities took action to investigate and protect children in 98 percent of cases.

The charity said the number of the child abuse calls continues to grow, despite unions and industry consultants warning that an already demoralised workforce was struggling with mounting case loads.

Public sector union UNISON, which represents 40,000 social workers, said staff were spending 80 percent of their time on paperwork and computer work, and spending only 20 percent of their time with clients.


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