THE leader of the city council has raised concerns after a charity revealed referrals for child neglect in the county had doubled in five years.

The NSPCC has released figures showing that a record number of referrals for child neglect have been handled by the charity in Essex.

The child protection charity announced its dedicated helpline has dealt with 516 reports in the past year- the highest number recorded in the county since 2011/12.

Roy Whitehead, leader of Chelmsford City Council, said: “I do not know if this is down to the increase that we have seen in crime in the city in recent times.

“It could also be that more people are reporting the crimes - this doesn’t mean its not an issue as it clearly is. We must support the police in the work that they do tackling these issues.”

On average, ten reports of child neglect are referred to Essex Police and social services each week.

This compares to 46 a day across the rest of the UK where 16,882 referrals were made to the authorities.

Figures show there were 248 referrals made to Essex social services and police in 2011/12, compared to 495 in 2015/16 and 516 in 2016/17.

The NSPCC’s latest report, How Safe are our Children, highlights the surge in referrals as children’s social care in England face unprecedented pressures with more young people being taken into care and more families needing sup - port.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “Neglect can have severe and long-lasting consequences for children and can also be an indicator of other forms of abuse. This is why it’s so important for anyone suspecting a child of being neglected to contact the NSPCC Helpline so we can alert the authorities to quickly step in and help those in need.

“At the same time, it’s vital we understand the true nature and scale of child neglect in the UK so we can collectively tackle the fundamental causes.

“Therefore, a Government- commissioned, nationwide prevalence study on child abuse and neglect needs to be conducted and sooner rather than later.”

Under Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, wilful neglect includes as - sault, abandonment, exposing a child under 16 to danger and causing unnecessary suffering, whether physical or emotional.

It covers failing to provide basic needs, such as food, clothing, healthcare and a home