CHILD cruelty and neglect offences have doubled in Wiltshire over the past five years, according to new Home Office figures.

Wiltshire Police recorded 45 cases in 2017/18, compared to 23 in 2012/13, representing an increase of almost 100 per cent.

But the figures have dropped sharply since last year, when the number of offences spiked to 73 in Wiltshire.

The increase is in line with the national average, where total offences have doubled, but lower than the South West's regional average, where the number of cruelty/neglect cases have increased five-fold (from 312 to 1,618).

Children's charity NSPCC received 19,937 calls last year about children suffering neglect, with three quarters referred urgently to police or children's services as a result.

These calls led to 1,486 referrals to police, child protection agencies and local authorities in the South West.

The charity's chief executive Peter Wanless said it was unclear why the figures had "risen so dramatically", but said "greater public awareness and improvements in how police record offences could be factors, along with deeper societal issues".

He added: “Whatever the reasons for the increase in child neglect there is something we can all do about it now, we need to be aware of vulnerable children and be ready to report it to the NSPCC or the authorities if we are concerned for their safety or wellbeing."

Mr Wanless appealed for donations to the NSPCC Christmas Appeal, and said £5 would pay for the helpline to answer a call about child neglect.

Common signs and symptoms adults may notice in a child who is being neglected include:

• Poor appearance and hygiene, they may be smelly or have unwashed clothes

• Living in an unsuitable home environment for example dog mess being left or not having any heating

• Left alone for a long time

• Untreated injuries, medical and dental issues; they may have skin sores, rashes, flea bites, scabies or ringworm

• Poor language, communication or social skills

• Seem hungry or turn up to school without having breakfast or any lunch money

Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline seven days a week on 0808 800 5000, or email