The number of recorded sexual offences against children in England and Wales has risen by a third while incidences of cruelty and neglect against under-16s are at their highest for a decade, according to the NSPCC's annual How Safe? report.
A total of 31,238 offences – 85 a day – including rape, sexual assault and grooming, were reported to police. The majority of victims were aged 12 to 16, although more than one in three (8,282) were younger than 11. Among these were 2,895 aged five and under – including 94 babies. The number of offences recorded against girls (24,457) was nearly five times higher than that of boys (5,292).
How Safe are our Children? compiles the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across each of the four nations in the UK. Official statistics included in the report show that all four countries in the UK have seen the number of recorded sexual offences against children increase by up to 40 per cent in 2013/14 compared with the previous year.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO said: "These figures are disturbing and clearly illustrate child sexual abuse is a continuing and widespread problem that needs urgent action. But we know this is still only a fraction of the true number of victims because some endure an agonising wait of many years before telling anyone – and others never reveal what has happened to them.
"It's time to throw down the gauntlet to government which has to ensure all sexual abuse victims get specialist treatment to help them recover. By the end of this current Parliament there should be no children living in the shadow of abuse."
"It's not clear why the number of offences has risen so dramatically. Greater awareness may be giving more victims the courage to come forward, including those reporting historical cases, or police forces have improved their recording methods. However it does mean that more children are speaking out, only to find little support to help them recover from abuse."
Government ministers Karen Bradley, Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation, and Edward Timpson, Minister of State for Children and Families will join Wanless in speaking more about these figures at the NSPCC's flagship conference today [17 June]. Follow our live coverage of the conference @journalfhc with #howsafe2015.