MORE than five times as many Somerset child cruelty offences were reported last year than five years previous.

Nationwide, the figure has doubled since 2012/13, rising from 7,956 to 16,939 in 2017/18, according to NSPCC.

It coincides with the launch of their Christmas campaign, Light For Every Childhood.

Across the country, notable buildings are being lit up green to raise awareness of neglect - the most common type of abuse affecting children in the UK.

On Monday, Houses of Parliament and BT Tower became the latest landmarks to show their support by lighting up in the charity’s colour.

Over the past five years, South West has seen a five-fold increase, with a rise from 312 offences of child cruelty and neglect in 2012/13, compared to 1,618 over the past 12 months.

Somerset has seen a similar percentage rise, with 755 offences this year and 145 half a decade ago.

An NSPCC practitioner recalled a recent referral she made to police.

Tracey Hamer said: “The police told me that mum had been found unwell and violently vomiting and unable to care for her three year-old daughter.

“The house was in a state of disrepair and kitchen worktops were covered in dirty crockery with mould. The washing machine was broken, and mum said water would come up through the pipes, so she couldn’t clean any clothes.”

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

Recorded police offences reveal a fraction of neglect cases, as social workers step-in when parents cannot meet child’s needs.

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 - with three quarters referred urgently to police or children’s services.

These calls led to 1,486 referrals to police, child protection agencies and local authorities in the South West of England.

Avon and Somerset Police superintendent Will White said; “There are a number of reasons to explain the rise in the number of offences, including increased awareness of this type of crime, in early reporting of offences and in confidence among victims in the criminal justice system.

“If we want to stamp out abuse we first need to understand its scale and prevalence, this is a journey and that is not something that can be explained by solely analysing simple performance statistics. “

“Protecting the most vulnerable from harm is a force-wide priority as set by the Police and Crime Plan.

“We have specially trained officers who are dedicated to working with victims to make sure they are fully supported.”

For free and confidential advice, contact The Bridge on 0117 342 6999 or