How to Stop Child Abuse
An interview with Chris Cloke from the NSPCC about the charity's latest campaign.
Estelle Matthews: What would you do, if you thought someone was abusing a child? Would you talk to them about it or would you go to the police or social services. Well, the NSPCC says, as many as 250,000 adults suspected abuse and did nothing about it. Chris Cloke is head of child protection at the NSPCC. Chris, welcome to the studio and what is this latest campaign all about?
Chris Cloke: Top list adopted a major drive to encourage people to talk about child abuses. If they have got concerns about the safety of a child. We know from our research, that many people may have a kind of nagging doubt, that they think my neighbor's child; my son, daughter or baby is being harmed. Should I do something about it? And they do nothing about it. so we want to encourage people to find someone they trust and to talk about the concerns that they have.
Estelle Matthews: Now obviously you highlighting more detail, how you go about talking. But aren't people just going to be interfering with other peoples' business? How do you make this approach subtle?
Chris Cloke: No, I don't think it is interfering at all and as you said, you said something like 250,000 people over the ten years, a phenomenal figure, have had concerns about the safety of a child and done nothing. So, that child will that baby may be going on being harmed, and no one has taken the action. And we certainly know, from talking to people who have been abused, that really they could tell someone. But no has been listening. They say to us, I tried to tell someone. I tried to tell and always possible short of saying I'm being abused and nothing happened. And of course with very young children, babies and toddlers, they are so much more vulnerable. So, we don't think there is a question of interfering. We think it is a question of really having responsibility. We believe that caring and looking out for children must be everyone's responsibility. So, we don't think its interfering at all.
Estelle Matthews: Now Chris, give us a case study or an example of a situation, that may well be alleviated by someone saying oh, what's going on here. How would you make that approach?
Chris Cloke: Well, certainly we know from our help line for example, that we will get people telephoning and they will often say, I've heard a neighbor, I've heard a baby crying incessantly, night after night or sometimes during the day. Now, of course that may be an innocent explanation of why that baby is crying. But if it is combined, perhaps, we have a baby being left alone, being left at home alone for quite long hours. That may be an indication of a child is being abused. So, we would certainly say to people, if you've got concerns about child in that sort of situation, take action, and talk to someone, talk to neighbor in the first instant. And sound that person out. Do you think I might be bothering about this, about that child? Have you got worries? What do you think? So, if you can talk with them, we think if you could encourage people to talk through what their concerns are, that's a very vital first step to taking action.
Estelle Matthews: Sometimes though, you are presented with a more aggressive situation. You are talking about this neighbor, that neighbor might not want anything to do with you and therefore the approach is difficult. You are suggesting may be, phone and talk to someone, phone the helpline. But you must not go chasing in there.
Chris Cloke: No, I think that's absolutely right. You should know, you hit the nail on the head. We would certainly say, if it is appropriate to talk action and talk to someone that's a good thing to do. But we would also say, never put yourself in actual danger yourself. So if you think you are going to be threatened, you can always telephone the NSPCC child protection helpline. You can always contact please our social services if it is an emergency. but don't put yourself in danger.
Estelle Matthews: Now have you done research that actually says that, this campaign is going to improve, you know, this 250,000 that we are talking about is going to be reduced radically in a very short space of time.
Chris Cloke: Well programs like this are excellent in highlighting the issue and so we have been running advertising campaigns. We have been getting coverage on television and certainly from the research that we have been doing, we know there is a lot of awareness that people are taking action. As part of this campaign, we were also delivering information to every household across the country which is giving information in terms of what sort of signs to look out for if a child is being harmed. And what you can do to help. So we are certainly breaking very successful in raising awareness and encouraging people to take action. But I think it's a long term thing. We really want to change our culture. We want to change society, so that children and the babies are very much valued. And of course, babies are very vulnerable. So, we think it's very important.
Estelle Matthews: It's a practical point and perhaps you could go through some of the signs that you are talking about in more detail. What should we be looking out for?
Chris Cloke: I mean, certainly with very young children, it's a sort of situation where, perhaps a child is crying incessantly, perhaps when they have a particular reason. It mat be that a child is being neglected and say for example, they may be left at home for long periods of time. A child may be dirty. A child may be smelly. A child may not have its basic needs being met. And say for example, it might not be clothed properly. It might not be having enough to eat. And a child's emotional needs may be, a child's emotional needs might not being met. And so for example, there might be very poor interaction between the parents and the child or the baby. There is an all possible signs that they may be innocent explanations for any of those sorts of things. Of course, the very obvious sign is that, that the child perhaps is being, has a lot of bruises or a child may have bruises or injuries, which can't be accounted for. There may be reasonable explanation, but they might not be. so there is a all signs lookout for and if you got a nagging doubt in the back of your mind, what we would urge you to do is, don't do nothing do something.
Estelle Matthews: Now is the incidence of child abuse going on?
Chris Cloke: It's a very difficult question to answer. Its so much people often ask us. I think, probably what's happing is there is a much greater awareness of children being abused which is good. And then we would like, the NSPCC would, we would like certainly to think that, it is coming down and certainly we believe that with campaigns like this, we can stop child abuse. We can end cruelties to children.
Estelle Matthews: Then the campaign must cost a huge amount of money. Is the money all going in the right place or is at all going on advertising?
Chris Cloke: No it's not all going on advertising. And certainly no we are providing information. We are giving people information leaflets. But we are also providing, NSPCC is also providing services as well. So we have our helpline that people can telephone 24 hours a day free of charge and the helpline will advice and counsel people in terms of what to do, if they have got concerns. And, we are also running projects across the country which do include projects which are working with families on the grounds. Most of the NSPCC money is spend on the services.
Estelle Matthews: There are all kind of parents who treat their children in different ways and some we don't approve of, some we do. But how do you constitute the cruelty versus just generally aggressive, may be, and not the kind of people we would want to mix with that type parents?
Chris Cloke: Well, I think the majority of parents, certainly the majority of parents want to do well by their children. They want to look after their children. But we also know that all of us from time to time can come under stress. I have got children myself and I know that anyone can be very stressed out, which may lead them to harm their children in different ways. So, I think most of us want to do well for our children. But there is a small minority of parents who will harm their children and there is certainly parents that we want to look out for. But I think what's very important is, if we can take early action, if we can support those parents, we can reduce the harm that the children and babies experience.
Estelle Matthews: As far as one thing, we got to be careful of is that, you don't you are not listening out for things and looking for problems. And that you really are genuinely looking for the signs that you described.
Chris Cloke: I think I think that's right. And we have, again we know from the kind of cases that hit the head lines time and time again, we will know a child who has been very tragically killed or injured and no one has taken action. But very often someone will have known about that and could had done something to stop happening.
Estelle Matthews: Chris, this is a very worth while cause. We wish you the best of luck with the campaign.
Chris Cloke: Thanks very much indeed, thank you.
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