A CHILD protection charity refers on average three reports of neglected children to police and social services in Oxfordshire every week.

The NSPCC said in 12 months between April 2016 and March 2017 its helpline dealt with 162 reports following calls or emails from concerned adults about youngsters in Oxfordshire.

There were a further 28 contacts requesting advice about a child possibly facing neglect in Oxfordshire during 2016/17. The latest statistics show the number of referrals has almost doubled compared to 83 five years earlier.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC said neglect can have a ‘severe and long-lasting consequences for children’ adding it can also be an indicator of other forms of abuse.

Steve Harrod, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for children and family services, said the figures were a ‘concern’ but added the increase in reports would be down to a ‘growing awareness’ of the issue.

Mr Harrod said: “We are endeavouring to get involved involved earlier where there are problems.

“The earlier we become involved the sooner we can take proactive action to prevent things escalating.”

The cabinet member also said there had been occasions where children had said they ‘wished’ earlier intervention had been made.

Neglect happens when a child’s needs aren’t met and could be down to several factors, which range from parents not having the skills, support or funds, to having mental health issues.

Signs of neglect include having poor hygiene, being left home alone and seeming hungry.

The NSPCC said a growing number of people contacting their helpline described parents as having a problems with alcohol and drugs - with some of them regularly leaving their children unsupervised as they went drinking with friends.

One neighbour, who wanted to remain anonymous, told helpline staff: “The children are home alone again. I saw the mother leave the house earlier this morning and it’s past midnight now.

“She does this every Friday night to go out drinking with her mates. I’m really confused about what to do as I don’t want to ruin the relationship with the mother.”

The charity said it believes the full scale of the problem could be much greater, and urged the Government to commission a study into the extent of child neglect.