Improved training for healthcare professionals could help to tackle rocketing numbers of childhood emotional neglect and abuse cases.
A report released by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) shows that the number of serious abuse cases referred on to local authorities has risen by 50% compared to last year.
Staff at the anonymous helpline assisted over 8,000 people in 2014/14 so far, and 5,554 were so serious they had to be referred to the police or children’s services, compared to 3,629 last year.
Over 60,000 people have been offered help and support by the helpline this year, an increase of 21% on last year.
The figures come as the government considers a change to the law to tackle the emotional neglect and abuse of children. The so called "Cinderella law" would update the 1933 criminal offence of child cruelty to include emotional neglect and abuse as well as physical abuse.
John Cameron, NSPCC head of child protection operations, said:
"Emotional neglect and abuse cause real harm to children and we are supporting more people than ever before who want a safe, non-judgemental place in which to talk through their concerns.
“The government has indicated they are set to outlaw extreme emotional cruelty and this is a positive step forward and the publicity around this and highly publicised cases such as Daniel Pelka may have contributed to the sharp increase in calls.
"We must recognise extreme emotional abuse for what it is - a crime - and those who carry it out should be prosecuted. This isn't about prosecuting parents who don't buy their children the latest gadgets or trainers this is about parents who consistently deny their children love and affection.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing said: “A change in the law is the right way forward and its vital that school nurses, health visitors and other frontline staff are given enough support to help them pick up on the early signs of neglect and take the necessary action.
“Health care staff are well placed to spot the signs of neglect in all its forms, but currently not all frontline staff have access to training and education to do this, or round the clock access to expert advice. Until this is provided children will be at risk of falling through the net and suffering neglect and abuse in silence.”