A charity helping abused children has launched a campaign to fight childhood trauma brought on by neglect.
Over the festive period, there is a surge in calls about children left alone in cold homes, without proper clothing, and living in filthy conditions, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said.
It often comes after extended family members spend more time with younger relatives and grow concerned.
One caller said they found their child relative alone on Boxing Day in a squalid house, without proper clothes or any food, and with pet waste and alcohol bottles scattered around the property.
Another was shocked to find child relatives being left alone to ruin their mental health with drink and drugs.
To draw attention to the problem, the NSPCC has launched its Light For Every Childhood Campaign, which saw sites in the capital such as the London Eye and Battersea Power Station illuminated green this week.
In 2017-18, the helpline took nearly 20,000 calls and emails about child neglect, with around three-quarters deemed so serious they were referred to children’s services and the police, the charity said.
The NSPCC said its helpline made 918 referrals to agencies in Scotland last year.
Chief executive Peter Wanless said: “Neglect doesn’t stop because it is Christmas, the holidays can in fact magnify problems because children are cut-off from the wider community and their support network.
“While it is positive that people are being vigilant and reporting concerns of children suffering neglect rather than standing by, it is still deeply worrying to see that neglect continues to be the most common reason for contacting the NSPCC Helpline.”
Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Every child, no matter their circumstances, should have the care and support they need for a happy, fulfilling life.
“That’s why we are improving children’s social care and the child protection system, so that children at risk of being neglected are identified sooner.
“We are also reforming how agencies work together locally in safeguarding against abuse and neglect.”
Neglect is the most common form of child abuse in the UK, and is estimated to currently affect one in 10 children, the NSPCC said.
Signs include poor appearance and hygiene, untreated injuries and rotting teeth, skin sores, rashes, flea bites, and poor communication skills.
It can cause lifelong psychological and physical harm.
The campaign page can be accessed at https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-you-can-do/make-a-donation/