Q&A about child protection with the NSPCC

In January 2012, the NSPCC campaign All babies count was one of our campaigns of the week. We followed this in February 2012 with a Q&A about child protection, which generated a huge amount of questions and comments about the NSPCC and its work. 

Awareness raising | Fundraising | What the NSPCC does | Work in schools | Mental health | Children home alone and teenage babysitters | Non-resident parents | Domestic abuse | Child trafficking and London 2012 | Other

NSPCC: Thanks for your many and varied questions and comments. The first thing to say is that we acknowledge the frustrations expressed in some of the questions and comments about a sense of a lack of clarity about what the NSPCC does, how we work and where we use our resources. The truth is that we've been through some big changes over the last few years as we have introduced our new strategy (more of which below) which is enabling us to be able to support more children in the future.

NSPCC logoWhilst we have been changing, it is fair to say that we have been a bit more inward-looking than in the past. Although we are definitely still working with and supporting thousands of children. But we are now in a position to start looking outwards and are looking to engage more with the public and professionals. Which is why we want to do things like this Q&A.

The NSPCC strategy outlines our aims for 2009-2016. We'll refer to it in some of our answers below. But, essentially, we have worked to develop a strategy which enables the NSPCC to deliver and develop innovative services that benefit children, which we can then share with other agencies, including statutory and voluntary organisations.

We believe that this strategy will enable us to have a far greater impact on the long-term welfare of children in the UK than if we try to do everything on our own. We think that by spending a large proportion of our budget on developing and delivering services, and the rest on raising awareness and sharing what we have learned (and yes, raising money to pay for all of this), we can make the greatest difference for child welfare.


The NSPCC team answering your questions:

Chris Cuthbert NSPCC

Chris Cuthbert: NSPCC head of strategy and development for children under one. Chris is the organisation's expert on pregnancy and early childhood, and leads work on the development of new services, research and influencing work to reduce the abuse and neglect of babies.

Kam Thandi NSPCC

Kam Thandi: manager of a team of helpline counsellors. Kam is a qualified social worker and has worked at the NSPCC for four years.

Jane Petrie NSPCC

Jane Petrie: joined the NSPCC in a role to encourage parents to help to protect children. Jane has a background in health visiting and parenting consultancy. Jane is also a mother of three.

Q. mo4gk: I hope the NSPCC will see the amazing opportunity this gives them for getting information about what a lot of parents think about their organisation, and then use this information for adapting the organisation's communication, resources and decisions. Also, I hope that NSPCC will not cherry-pick which questions to answer. 

A. NSPCC: We arranged to do a Q&A with Mumsnet because we wanted to have an opportunity to invite the views and feedback of the Mumsnet community so that we can understand what we might do differently. We do indeed see this Q&A as an amazing opportunity and have no intention of cherry-picking the questions - part of the reason we did this Q&A was because we wanted your input as to how we can develop how we communicate with parents, and the posts received have given us valuable insight into how the NSPCC is seen by some Mumsnetters. It might not all make comfortable reading for us but it is incredibly useful. We are hoping you will provide further feedback on what we say and how we have said it.

In terms of who is answering the questions, you can see our biographies above. As the questions are so varied, we have spoken with colleagues in other parts of the NSPCC where necessary to get fuller answers, including colleagues in our own departments, fundraising, our Information service, and yes, our media team.

Awareness raising

Q. HoleyGhost: I hate the misery-spreading ads. There is never an indication of what good this 'raising awareness' is meant to do, or of positive measures taken by the NSPCC, who seem to see spreading suspicion as an objective in itself. They subject everyone to these fear-mongering campaigns, even making new mothers a particular target with their vile 'baby names' book.

A. NSPCC: We are sorry to hear you don't like our ads - and we appreciate they are not comfortable viewing. It's actually really difficult to create something that illustrates the real dangers of child abuse but that isn't overly upsetting, and we continue to work to do this better. Getting the balance right is a debate that we are always having here and it is a challenge for us and other organisations, too.

'Awareness raising' adverts highlight what we do and, more to the point, what members of the public can do to protect children in their communities. We haven't run ads like these for quite a while, but we do plan to start doing more of this in the future. We will certainly look to make it clearer though what people can do positively if they are worried about a child.

There have been several comments on the baby name book, which was a mailing a few years ago that sought to raise money, and we have taken on board people's concerns. We learn something every time we run a campaign, both good and bad, and I can assure you that we have learned from this particular example. 

"Our ad spend is considerably less than many other major charities. The bulk of our spend remains on direct work with children and families."

Q. PlentyofPubeGardens: What proportion of your budget is spent on a) the production of misery-porn? b) chuggers?

A. NSPCC: Our overall marketing and advertising spend, along with all of our expenditure, is all detailed in our Annual Report & Accounts, which you can find here. As you'll see from that, our ad spend is actually considerably less than many other major charities. The bulk of our spend remains on direct work with children and families. 

Q. purits: Why is the NSPCC so negative? For instance, I clicked on the campaign mentioned and their headline runs 'Help protect all babies from abuse and neglect'. This implies that all babies are at risk from abuse and neglect ie that all adults are potential abusers. I take objection to being portrayed as a potential abuser and as a consequence never donate to NSPCC. Most people are kind, generous and humane. It is a very small minority who are not. Why try to pretend otherwise and promote mistrust. I don't like the NSPCC's mindset.

A. NSPCC: All babies count is the campaign we launched to improve services and support for families during pregnancy and the first years of life. The word 'all' reflects our ambition that every baby should have the best possible start in life - that no baby should be left behind. It absolutely does not mean that we think all babies are at risk of abuse or that people in general can't be trusted.

The campaign - and our programme of new services across 22 areas of the UK - is based on an extensive research review and consultation about the importance of pregnancy and the first years; about the services that make most difference to children and their families; and about the state of policy and practice across the UK. You can see the full research report here.

We know that the vast majority of parents want to do the very best for their children. Becoming a new parent is one of the most profoundly life-changing events any of us ever experiences. Making sure that parents have access to the information, advice and support they need must surely be a priority for all of us.

Yet sadly, over a number of years, support available to parents has been eroded. For example, a major review of antenatal education found serious weaknesses in much current provision, with a heavily medical focus ("what form of pain relief do you want?"), and little time to help parents think about what the arrival of a new baby will really mean for their own relationships, about practical care for their babies and about what it's going to be like to be a parent. 

The research also found that dads were often poorly served and that many disadvantaged families were missing out on quality services. 


Q. Blatherskite: As a survivor of abuse, the first thing I did when I got my first job straight out of university was start up a direct debit to the NSPCC. I cancelled it last year when I read a thread on here regarding the huge amounts that were being spent on parties shmoozing big business for donations.

A. NSPCC: We do have a team that run things like balls and auctions to raise money from potential large donors - the outlay is significantly less than the money raised. On average, for every £1 spent on fundraising, we bring in £4.11, which is pretty good and compares well to other fundraising charities.

It's true that our accounts show a greater spend on fundraising than some other charities - that's due to our working to different models of raising money. Some charities rely more heavily on income from grants from government and elsewhere than we do. But the NSPCC gets most of its income from donations of one kind or another.

We would argue that being funded in this way can enable us to be more independent and faster to respond to changing needs than those who are more reliant on government grants.  

"The NSPCC gets most of its income from donations. Being funded in this way can enable us to be more independent and faster to respond to changing needs than charities more reliant on government grants." 

Q. EldonAve: Does the NSPCC receive any government or local authority funding?

A. NSPCC: The NSPCC does receive some funding from other sources other than donations, for example government grants and fees for services that we deliver. In the past financial year, we received £17.1m from local authorities and the Government. Again, more details can be found in our annual report

Q. nannipig: How is the NSPCC coping with reduction in funds through donations during economic downturns? How does it decide where to put money etc? 

A. NSPCC: As over 70% of our income is through donation, we are affected by the downturn in the economic climate and have experienced a reduction in giving like many other charities. We are working harder than ever to ensure that every penny we can is used to deliver services that make a difference to the safety and wellbeing of children.

Deciding where to spend money has resulted in cuts in some services and closure of some projects. However, by being more focused and targeted in our activities, the NSPCC aims to increase its effectiveness long term.  

What the NSPCC does

Q. PlentyOfPubeGardens : The more I look round your website, the less I discover that you actually do.

A. NSPCC: We are sorry that you don't think that it's always clear from our website what we actually do - we know that we need to improve the navigation of our website so that it is easier to find the information you want, and we are working on a major review of our web content and navigation, which of course takes time and money.

You might be interested to know that we also have an Information Service, which, among other things, answers enquiries from the public about the work of the NSPCC. If you ever want to know something about our work that you can't find on the website, please do get in touch - info@nspcc.org.uk

What the NSPCC actually does is:

  • Provides direct services to children and young people who have been abused and neglected (we run projects across service centres) through our service centres
  • Runs a helpline for adults who are concerned about a child
  • Runs ChildLine for children to call and talk to a counsellor with any worry they may have
  • Provides training course for professionals around child protection and working with complex abuse and neglect issues
  • Provides consultancy services for any organisation that works with children to ensure they have robust child protection services
  • Lobbies government to change legislation and policy and guidance to best support children from abuse and neglect
  • Runs awareness campaigns so that people know what to do in response to child abuse
  • Fundraising to allow us to continue to run all these services

Sorry it's a long list, but hopefully this makes it clearer what we do.

Over the past few years, while still running many of our services and activities, we've spent more time on developing a new strategy that makes sure our services and other activity are more focused, efficient and effective in tackling child abuse.

This means we've been more focused on scoping and planning services and less on telling people what we do. This Q&A is one of the many ways that we are now communicating more about what we do, and listening to what people think about it. Our plan over the next few years is to keep developing the way that we let people know what we are up to and how their donations are being used. 

Q. ReneeVivien: It seems to me that, when it comes to service provision, the NSPCC benefits (via donations) from the popular assumption that you are quasi-statutory and therefore go places and do stuff that the other large children's charities don't. Is this true? Are you substantially different from the others in your scope and powers?

However, when it comes to child protection, it seems to me that NSPCC benefits from the popular assumption that you are a softer, more understanding, more parent-friendly alternative to social services. What value do you add for those reporting suspected child abuse? Is there any point in ringing you before social services? 

Final point: I did like that parents' magazine you used to distribute via ELC. It had a nice way of communicating parent education. Is it gone forever?

A. NSPCC: First of all, I'm glad you liked our magazine Your Family, so did we. However, with pressure on our budget, we took the tough decision that we needed to be more focused on issues directly related to child protection, including direct services to children and families. And although parent education is really important as a supportive and preventative measure, we think that other organisations do this well, and so we are choosing to focus on less well covered areas of work.

In terms of your point about 'quasi-statutory' status, the NSPCC was granted Authorised Person Status (APS), currently exercised under the Children Act 1989. With this we can apply for a court order placing a child in the care of a local authority and we are the only charity which has this power, so yes, in that respect we are different from any other charity.

"We can apply for a court order placing a child in the care of a local authority and we are the only charity which has this power."

The assumption that we are "softer" etc can make the difference between someone approaching us, and approaching nobody at all, regarding worries about a child. The reality is that not everyone - rightly or wrongly - feels inclined to call social services directly.

Callers to our helpline have said that they often prefer to speak to the NSPCC because we offer an opportunity for them to remain anonymous and they find the ease of contacting us at any time they want (we are open 24 hours), often late at night, very helpful. Often people who call the helpline are unsure if their concerns warrant contacting social services, so we can help to assess this and then advise and support them on further action.

More than half (54%) of the contacts we get to the helpline don't require a referral to children's services, in these cases we give direct advice on what to do, or put people in touch with other forms of support in their area. The helpline often takes calls from people who are seeking advice and information which the NSPCC is well placed to provide, for example about local support services in their area.

Children's services are generally positive about this because they understand that without this service they could become involved in providing child welfare advice that could at times take up valuable child protection resources. 

"Last year, our staff and volunteers worked directly with more than 14,000 children and families across England, Wales and Northern Ireland."

Q. fanjover:  How many children physically attend NSPCC projects?

A. NSPCC: Last year, our staff and volunteers worked directly with more than 14,000 children and families across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We ran 111 projects to prevent abuse in families, protect children from abusive adults and help them recover from abuse and neglect.  

Q. nailak: Why is the NSPCC necessary? What does it do that the government doesn't do? If anything, why is this so? Surely it is the government's responsibility to look after children and fund organisations that do this type of work, including research, campaigning etc. Why are donations required instead of lobbying government for funds?

A. NSPCC: We think that what we offer in terms of services complements what is available from the government. In addition to our national helpline, ChildLine, and advice and awareness work, the NSPCC has over 40 family service centres around England, Wales and Northern Ireland where we provide direct therapeutic services to children and young people who have been abused and neglected.

We think that the fact most of our income comes from donations of one kind or another enables us to be more independent and faster to respond to changing needs than organisations who are more reliant on grants.

Q. soandsosmummy: What do you actually do when you are contacted with a child protection concern? If the social workers I have spoken to are to be believed, you simply refer it to the relevant local authority. If this is true, why are you running an expensive phone line and wouldn't people be better cutting you out and contacting their local authority directly?

A. NSPCC: The NSPCC helpline is an alternative way of enabling any member of the public to report concerns about a child. By providing a national single point of contact we enable reports to be made that might not otherwise have reached a local authority. When someone contacts the helpline, their call, text or email goes first to a call handler, who will put you through to a helpline counsellor who will ask you to talk about your concerns.

They will assess the information, advise you, and decide upon a course of action with you. If they need to refer the case to the police or children's services, they will ask you for some identifying details of the children. If a referral is not necessary, we will give advice about how you can help the child directly.

For more detailed information, including some useful videos about how the helpline works, you might like to watch our Helpline Uncovered videos. 

"In 2011, the NSPCC helpline advised about 35,000 adults worried about a child. We referred 16,385 cases to local police and social services. More than one in three children referred were previously unknown to the authorities."

In 2011, the helpline advised about 35,000 adults worried about a child. We referred 16,385 cases to local police and social services for further investigation, so almost half of the contact we received resulted in a further referral. More than one in three children referred were previously unknown to the authorities. 

Q. Linerunner: How does the NSPCC measure the percentage of calls that come in from malicious ex-partners and how are these dealt with, given that this could be part of a pattern of harassment or even abuse against a parent with care of children?

A. NSPCC: In terms of malicious calls, we actually receive relatively few of these calls, but we do understand the impact it has on children and families who are the victims of malicious reporting and we do everything that we can to identify and tackle this when it happens.

Our trained counsellors (many of whom have been frontline statutory social workers) work hard to ensure the information they gather is factual. The NSPCC will always work closely with local agencies and families who have been subject to deliberate harassment by others misusing our services. We absolutely recognise how damaging this sort of incident is. 

Q. fanjover: I'd like to know why the NSPCC provides almost no child protection services in the South West since the closure of ChildLine Exeter, Young Witness Support Projects Exeter and Plymouth, Plymouth Child Protection Centre, Somerset Child Protection Centre, to name just a few, and yet still had the cheek to send out a Connect magazine to everyone in the South West this Christmas with a map clearly showing that just two tiny projects are now covering everything south of Gloucester and west of Southampton. Other regions have suffered similar cuts. Is the NSPCC just a short term project-building/trashing machine that trades on its reputation?

A. NSPCC: The NSPCC has about £120m to spend each year. This is clearly a large budget, but in comparison, the UK governments and voluntary sectors combined have an estimated £6bn. Our level of spending, even if entirely devoted to local services, will never be sufficient to provide all of the services that are needed in every area: therapy to all the children and young people who have been abused or neglected, preventative services to vulnerable families and parents, public awareness campaigns to highlight how the community can help to protect children from abuse and neglect.

Over the past few years, we have worked to develop a strategy which enables the NSPCC to deliver and develop innovative services that benefit children, which we can then share and pass on to other voluntary organisations and the statutory sector.

"We think that by spending a large proportion of our budget on developing and delivering services, and the rest on raising awareness and sharing what we have learned (and yes, raising money to pay for all this), we can make the greatest difference to child welfare."

This does mean that some services have closed, which is always a difficult decision. We believe that this strategy will enable us to have a far greater impact on the long-term welfare of children in the UK than if we try to do everything on our own.

We think that by spending a large proportion of our budget on developing and delivering services, and the rest on raising awareness and sharing what we have learned (and yes, raising money to pay for all of this), we can make the greatest difference to child welfare.

Q. LineRunner: If someone texts you from the Isle of Man, a Crown Dependency with its own government and (oft-criticised) social services system, what actually happens?

A. NSPCC: The Isle of Man is considered part of the UK, and calls to the helpline are treated the same no matter where the caller is based. We can only support children in the UK or from the UK.

Regarding calls about UK children who are abroad, we would work with Children and Families Across Borders to contact the local child protection service. In countries without organised child protection services, we would contact the British Embassy in that country.   

NSPCC work in schools

Q. notcitrus: I still have nightmares from when I was eight in 1982, the NSPCC came to my school and did an assembly where they told us stories of graphic child abuse - the sort of thing that would be toned down in most 'misery lit' books now. This was followed by getting us to do a sponsored activity to raise money. 

Could the NSPCC assure me that their fundraising efforts are now age-appropriate? I'm not against funds being used for schmoozing dinners in general, as I know they can be very cost-effective (but not always).

A. NSPCC: We asked our colleagues in ChildLine for more information and this is what they said. We work closely with schools to ensure activities are age appropriate. We currently run two ChildLine-related activities in schools. 

The first is schools fundraising, which has been running for many years. Our team goes out into schools to talk to pupils about how they can support the NSPCC with fundraising activities. This is planned in consultation with head teachers regarding what their pupils will find enjoyable and educational.

The second is that the new ChildLine Schools service teaches children aged 5 to 11 to recognise abusive behaviour (including bullying) and explains where they can go for support. As with all of our activities, the NSPCC welcomes feedback.

Q. fanjover: Your highly questionable ChildLine schools service is being rolled out to introduce primary school children across the country to the subject of child abuse using a friendly green fluffy gonk. It seems to be encouraging children to ring ChildLine, but they closed a load of ChildLine offices last year.

A. NSPCC: The new ChildLine Schools service teaches children aged 5 to 11 to recognise abusive behaviour (including bullying), and where they can go for support. As with all of our activities, the NSPCC welcomes feedback.

In relation to ChildLine base closures, you are right - we did close two bases. This was part of reorganising ChildLine so we can better meet demand for the service as efficiently as possible. We have already increased the number of ChildLine volunteers in our remaining bases and we are answering more calls and online contacts from children and young people.

We expect online demand for our services to continue to increase and we will continue to work hard to spend our donors' money as effectively as we can to meet this growing online demand. Our highest priority is to continue to offer a high-quality service for children and young people.

Mental health

Q. Memoo: I find the implication that having a mental health problem automatically means you are a risk to your baby insulting. Most people with mental health problems still take care of their children perfectly well. Your comments are just adding to the stigma that surrounds mental health issues and puts parent off from seeking support because they are scared of their children being labelled at risk of abuse.

A. NSPCC: Having a mental illness clearly doesn't make someone a bad parent. We know that the vast majority of parents want to do the very best for their children. We want to make sure that support is available to help parents who may be experiencing mental illness during pregnancy and the first years of life because this is such a critical time for forming secure attachment relationships. 

We have worked closely with leading researchers, charities and clinicians in reviewing the evidence about parental and infant mental health, and you can read more details about these findings.

Our review has suggested that often services could be enhanced by having a stronger family focus, not only treating clients as 'adult patients', but also as 'parents'. There are some amazing services which focus on supporting parents to develop secure attachment and we are keen to lobby for increased provision of such effective parental and infant mental health provision.

Q. PlentyofPubeGardens: Mental health charities are working really hard at the moment to destigmatise people with mental health issues. The message of your campaign is to be suspicious of people experiencing mental distress and to distrust their parenting. You're in danger of doing a lot of harm here. Did you consult with any mental health charities before you created this campaign?

A. NSPCC: We totally support the work of organisations like Mind, which are successfully campaigning to remove the stigma that can be attached to mental illness. In fact, we are launching a series of films for professionals in partnership with an award-winning documentary maker and parent-infant psychotherapist from the North East London Mental Health Trust.

This series aims to break down taboos and help professionals identify and work with parents experiencing mental health problems, and give them the support to develop secure attachment relationships with their babies. 

"There are some excellent services which can make an amazing difference in helping to cope with the pressures of parenting and we want to ensure that this support is much more widely available."

Q. SardineQueen: Why have mental health problems been included with domestic violence and drug abuse as a major risk factor in child abuse.

A. NSPCC: The causes of maltreatment are complex and our research reviews the wide range of risk and protective factors known to be associated with abuse and neglect. If you are interested in reading more about this, one of the most helpful references is Understanding Child Maltreatment: An Ecological & Developmental Perspective by Maria Scannapieco (OUP).

Clearly, having a mental illness doesn't make someone a bad parent. The impact of mental illness on children and families can vary considerably depending on the specific condition, its severity, the timing of onset and its duration.

We of course recognise that mental illness, domestic abuse and substance misuse are very different, but what they do have in common is that they can make the job of parenting much harder. There are some excellent services which can make an amazing difference in helping to cope with the pressures of parenting and we want to ensure that this support is much more widely available. 

Children home alone and teenage babysitters

Q. mloo: Why is the NSPCC deemed such an authority in child protection matters? Many people in the UK would think it reasonable to leave a child under age 14 or even under 11 at home alone for short periods. Does the NSPCC label all such people as abusive or neglectful?

Do you think that the NSPCC's work is undermined by its stance on allowing children to have personal freedom (to play out alone or stay home alone for short periods), especially when the NSPCC stance is at odds with widespread and traditional cultural practice?

A. NSPCC: There has been a lot of discussion around what the NSPCC has to say about children being left at home alone, and what is the right age for babysitters.

We would like to be really clear that we don't attempt to specify a definitive age limit for being left at home alone, with or without younger siblings. We agree with the Mumsnetter who rightly says: "There is no legal age - it is down to the parents' own judgement, as teenagers all differ hugely as do their siblings."

"We make a general recommendation that very young children are never left at home alone. The NSPCC's view is that children from about the age of 12 being left at home for periods of an hour or two during the day is fine, so long as the child is happy."

We make a general recommendation that very young children are never left at home alone. The NSPCC's view is that children from about the age of 12 being left at home for periods of an hour or two during the day is fine, so long as the child is happy and you, the parent, have discussed with them, what they should do to stay safe or get help if needed. Obviously you will use your own discretion around the appropriate responsibilities you give to your children according to their age, abilities and temperament.

The pressures on working parents are challenging, and many children at secondary school age are happy and safe at home after school. But, hopefully, parents are available by phone or text, and have discussed with youngsters what to do if there in an emergency or something goes wrong. 

Q. edam: The NSPCC is losing the support of perfectly reasonable parents by claiming that leaving a teenager to babysit younger siblings is somehow illegal or wrong. I was babysitting at age 14 as were all my friends - perfectly normal. I doubt there's been some massive drop in the competence of teenagers over the past 25 years.

A. NSPCC: We do not consider all children under 16 necessarily have the capacity to babysit siblings or other people's children. For that reason, our advice states that babysitters should be over 16 years of age. However, we are aware of the difficulties parents experience in seeking babysitting provision.

We also understand the need to build up young people's personal independence. Courses that prepare young people to babysit responsibly are a positive step but do not guarantee maturity or competence. If you are using a babysitter under the age of 16, you have responsibility not only for the safety of your own children but also to that young person.

As Mumsnetter Spike09 points out, should anything go wrong whilst they are babysitting, the authorities will look to you as the responsible adult and may choose to prosecute you if they consider you to have failed to ensure the situation was safe for all concerned.

For the reasons stated above we will continue to advise choosing a babysitter who is 16 or over and seeking references to ensure they are reliable. Here is our full advice page on babysitters.

Q. LineRunner: Why does the NSPCC persist in its stance about not leaving under-16s in charge of a younger sibling, and not leaving even young teenagers alone, even for short periods, when government policy for lone parents clearly requires that to happen?

Is the NSPCC prepared to say that David Cameron is wrong about this? If so, on what grounds?
And where is all the affordable childcare for 13-15 year olds, whilst lone parents work the only available shifts in the local supermarket?

A. NSPCC: Parents face a difficult task balancing the need to earn a living and finding or funding childcare. Some people ask friends, family or neighbours to help provide supervision of teenagers where working parents cannot. But the reality is that this is not easy and we certainly do not claim to have all of the answers to this. But we will continue to state that the safety and welfare of children should not be compromised. 

Non-resident parents

Q. BasilRathbone: There is a lot of talk at the moment about the government planning to change the law so that a non-resident parent's right to see their child is enshrined in law. At the moment, the law presumes that neither of the parents have rights, only the child does.

What is wrong with that presumption, and does the NSPCC support that presumption? If it is a wrong presumption, what is the NSPCC's view of enshrining a non-resident parent's right to see their children-in-law without any responsibilities to see their children (I don't think there are any plans to force non-resident parents who can't be bothered to go and see their children to turn up at the time and place agreed, and to penalise them for not doing so) and without enshrining any rights for the resident parent?

Are you going to lobby the government to ensure that rights are equally handed out to both parents, or are handed out attached to responsibilities, or are only given to children? Or will you support the government's unequal treatment of parents and ignoring of the rights of children not to be emotionally abused by their non-resident parent?

A. NSPCC: The NSPCC believes that all children have a right to enjoy regular contact with both parents following separation, provided that it is safe to do so. We support and share the view that the rights of the child are paramount, and we don't see the proposed change in legislation as adding value.

The Children and Adoption Act 2006 contains provisions on contact with children after parental separation. The act aims to ensure that court-ordered contact arrangements are safe before they are enforced, and we support this approach. Unfortunately, it is not possible to guarantee compliance, and we would appeal to all separating parents to look at the impact of their separation on their children and try to resolve differences in ways that do not affect the child.

The NSPCC's view is that the primary focus should be on the paramountcy principle (putting the child's best interests first) as stated in the Children Act 1989 and all decisions about arrangements for the child after separation should be grounded in this principle.

The importance of children having a meaningful relationship with both parents post-separation is already fully recognised by the judiciary and all those working within the family justice system, and they communicate this to families. Courts already take into account the benefit this has for the child and they already recognise the importance of ensuring that the child is protected from physical or psychological harm.

We do not see any added value in creating legislation on this point and once again we do not see how it could be enforced or what sanctions would be appropriate. 

Q. stewiegriffinsmom: I would like to know why the NSPCC does not have clear guidelines on what financial abuse actually is? Why is the failure of a non-resident parent to pay child maintenance not considered financial abuse, when a large number of single-parent families live in poverty - families who wouldn't live in poverty if the non-resident parent was paying maintenance.

A. NSPCC: Non-payment of child maintenance is an issue we know affects many families and children. And all too often child custody and child maintenance conflicts are a tragic consequence of parental separation.

The NSPCC provides advice to parents who believe their children are suffering from the consequences of parental separation and divorce, advising them on how to best manage those difficult and emotional challenges they face as parents. We can also help them with a range of information about organisations that could advise further on financial matters and managing the impact on children.

Our helpline staff work hard to maintain up-to-date information on the advice and support available in different areas so that they can offer this support. 

Domestic abuse

Q. BertieBotts: What is the NSPCC's position on the effect of domestic abuse in the household upon children? To clarify, abuse which is happening around them (in the parents' relationship, for example) but not directly towards them.

Do you think it is fair to take the view that the best way to protect the child is to remove them, or do you think it would be more beneficial to work with the abused partner and either remove the abuser, or help the abused partner find safety with their children? Does the NSPCC offer any support towards children and families who have escaped abusive households?

A. NSPCC: Wherever possible, the NSPCC works with partner organisations to tackle domestic abuse and the damage done to children who witness it. The NSPCC is also actively working to raise awareness and deliver frontline services to support families living with and escaping domestic abuse. For example, last year we published the results of a research study carried out by the NSPCC and Refuge on Meeting the needs of children living with domestic violence in London.

We have also provided two types of services focused on domestic abuse: one which focuses on addressing the behaviours of dads who have been violent, and another programme (Domestic Abuse; Recovering Together) which provides therapeutic support to children and mothers where there has been family violence.

We know that children can be deeply traumatised by witnessing domestic abuse and we have done a lot of work in highlighting this issue with government, statutory and voluntary agencies. In 2009, the NSPCC ran a major campaign on domestic violence calling on governments and professionals to see domestic violence from the child's point of view. In the NSPCC's current strategy, domestic violence is a key priority. You can read a summary of the 2009 campaign recommendations.

"Children are harmed through domestic abuse, whether or not it happens directly to the child. Services often focus on helping mothers and overlook the harm caused to their children."

Our view is that children are harmed through domestic abuse, whether or not it happens directly to the child, and non-abusing parents should be supported to protect themselves and their children. Services often focus on helping mothers and overlook the harm caused to their children. It's our view that wherever possible it is to the benefit of the child to stay with the non-abusing parent, and providing support that keeps everyone safe is in the best interest of the whole family.

Child trafficking and London 2012

Q. noir: What will the NSPCC be doing to tackle the predicted rise in child trafficking during the Olympics?

A. NSPCC: The NSPCC has a specialist service called the Child Trafficking Advice and Information Service (CTAIL), providing advice and support to professionals involved with trafficked children. CTAIL is staffed by experienced social workers and a police liaison officer. CTAIL is a 'first responder' in the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), a process for identifying and supporting victims of trafficking. You can read about this in more detail.

The CTAIL team of social workers is working closely with the Olympics organisers, and is about to start a campaign to alert all professionals working in connection with the Olympics about the signs that a child may have been trafficked, what to do in this situation, and how the NSPCC's free CTAIL service can help with advice and support.

If you are a professional and have any concerns relating to child trafficking in the UK, please contact CTAIL immediately on 0800 107 7057, Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4.30pm or email ctail@nspcc.org.uk. 


Q. StarlightMcKenzie: Can you explain your work in relation to the abuse many siblings of disabled children face at the hands of their disabled siblings, and any campaigns you have run with regards to this. I am unable so far to find a body statutory or otherwise that is even vaguely interested.

A. NSPCC: If a child is suffering abuse, regardless of who is the perpetrator, you can talk to our helpline counsellors for advice and support, including finding local organisations who might be able to assist you. This is a very specialist area of work, which service providers and families would benefit from having further information on. Disabled children are one of our strategic focuses, and we are aware that this type of sibling abuse is an under-represented issue. 

"Disabled children are one of our strategic focuses, and we are aware that this type of sibling abuse is an under-represented issue."

Q. minximoo: How will local authority foster carers be affected by the benefits cap?

A. NSPCC: At the time of writing, the Welfare Reform Bill is going back to the House of Lords for consideration. Once this has happened, we think it will become much clearer who is going to be affected and in what way. As you will be aware, there is significant debate on this issue at the moment, and we will be monitoring the outcome.

Q. tralalala: Would you stop getting money from those clothes bag people (the companies that post charity bags for collection with NSPCC written on them, although only a tiny bit of any profit goes to your charity)? Some company is basically making a fortune on the back of your name.

A. NSPCC: The NSPCC uses Clothes Aid to carry out door-to-door clothing collections on our behalf. Before the NSPCC initiated the partnership with Clothes Aid, we conducted very thorough research on a number of different clothing collection agents. This included assessing ethical processes, thorough background checks on finances and levels of risk.

We have also gone through a detailed review of the prices at which Clothes Aid sell and the costs they incur including collection costs. They have been entirely transparent through this process, including making available underlying documentation such as invoices and we have an ongoing right to audit. We are satisfied that we are getting the best deal possible.

"Clothes Aid have been entirely transparent and we're satisfied we're getting the best deal possible. Since the initiative launched in 2009, it has raised over £1.3m to support our work."

Clothes Aid donates £80 to the NSPCC for each tonne of clothing, shoes and textiles donated. Clothes Aid sell the clothes to a range of different markets, predominantly in Eastern Europe, providing a valuable range of affordable clothing to these communities. Damaged clothing is recycled.

Since the initiative launched in July 2009, it has raised over £1.3m to support our work, exceeding the targets set and helping us reach out to many more vulnerable children in the UK.  

Q. paisley256: I'm interested in working in child protection but don't know how to get started. Do I have to become a social worker with a degree or are there other roles? Also what about voluntary opportunities, do these exist? I haven't done anything like this before and am currently a stay at home mum with three children. I'm 36. Would my age be a problem?

A. NSPCC: It's great that you are interested in working in child protection. There is a wide variety of options, and our NSPCC factsheet on working with children will give you some ideas about how to get started.

Volunteering is also an excellent way to get relevant experience. We've got lots of volunteering opportunities, from helping at ChildLine, to working in schools. You can find out more on the website

Q. DerbysKangaskhan: Will the NSPCC ever apologise for its horrible misuse of the tragic Victoria Climbie case to smear home educators, causing even more tension between many home educators and the authorities?

Your adverts would be helpful if they gave people something to do other than give the NSPCC money. Numbers for local authorities, specific things to look out for and ways to talk to troubled parents needing a hand would be loads better.

A. NSPCC: Regarding coverage of the tragic death of Victoria Climbie, the NSPCC issued an apology and clarification at the time: "The NSPCC would like to clarify its position regarding home education. We would like to make it clear that the NSPCC is not against home education and that as regards schooling we believe parents should have the right to decide what is in the best interests of their children. We sincerely regret any offence caused by references made to Victoria Climbie in the context of a discussion about home education. There was no intention to imply a connection between home education and Victoria Climbie's tragic death." 

Q. Pigeonstreet: Would you describe the NSPCC as a family-friendly employer given your central involvement as a child-focused charity? I know several employees who recently have felt that the child and family-focused attitude of the NSPCC ends with the campaigns and doesn't reach as far as the staff.

A. NSPCC: I'm sorry to hear you know NSPCC employees who are not happy. My personal experience is that the NSPCC does offer a range of support mechanisms for staff with families, including the opportunity to request flexible working, part time work, and good maternity, paternity, and adoption leave. For an overview of what it's like working at the NSPCC, see this section of our website

NSPCC: And finally... we hope these answers have given Mumsnetters greater insight into how the NSPCC works, and what we do. If you have further questions, or would like more detail about any of the issues covered above, or something else, you can contact our information service. If you do, it would help us to know that your contact has come as a result of this Q&A.

Please save these numbers and this email address, and get in touch if you are worried about a child:

  • 0808 800 5000
  • text 88858
  • help@nspcc.org.uk

Thank you.

Last updated: 9 months ago