CASES of child cruelty and neglect have more than doubled in Lancashire in the last five years, shocking new statistics show.

Charity bosses have described the hike as ‘dramatically disturbing,’ claiming the rise is in part down to a lack of investment in early intervention services.

Nationally the number of recorded cases has also soared, with crimes increasing by nearly a fifth in the last year alone.

Meanwhile in Lancashire, cases of neglect have more than doubled over the last five years, with police dealing with 123 cases in 2013/14 compared to a staggering 258 in 2018/19.

Councillor Maureen Bateson, Blackburn with Darwen’s executive member for children and education services, said cuts have led to ‘extremely challenging’ times.

She said: “In all cases we possibly can, the council will intervene as soon as possible to ensure the welfare of children in potentially abusive situations.

“But council cuts do mean that there isn’t as much money as there once was for those services.

“We work with several agencies to provide support and help but it is a difficult matter.”

Despite the growing numbers, the NSPCC pointed out the recorded figures do not reflect the whole picture, stating that many local authorities will step in before cases are reported as a crime.

Peter Wanless, CEO of the charity, said: “To see year after year the number of neglect and cruelty offences rise so dramatically is disturbing.

“Greater public awareness and improvements in police recording could be factors, but deeper societal issues such as increasing pressure on parents and a lack of investment in early intervention services, are leaving more children vulnerable and exposed to pain and suffering.

“Whatever the reasons for the rise, cruelty to children is never OK. It is vital that children always have a place they can go to seek help and support, day and night. Childline never stops and never sleeps, but for this to continue we need the public’s support and to back our ‘Light for Every Childhood’ Appeal.”

Reports to police included extreme cases of when parents or carers deliberately neglected, assaulted, abandoned or exposed their child to serious harm and unnecessary suffering.

n If you’re worried about a child, or you work with children and need advice, call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.