Published Thursday, 21 March 2013
A third of callers delayed phoning the NSPCC helpline by more than six months. (© UTV)
A further 21% in the region delayed seeking help by between one and six months.
Last year the NSPCC Helpline responded to 691 contacts from people in Northern Ireland, which is a 58% increase on the previous year.
A total of 353 of contacts made to the helpline- involving 717 local children - resulted in referrals to police or children's services.
Launching its first nation-specific 'Helpline Highlight', the children's charity emphasised the service's role in providing the Northern Ireland public with an independent source of help and advice, where there are concerns about the welfare of children.
The NSPCC Helpline is a telephone and online service for adults who are concerned about the welfare of a child or young person. It provides adults with advice, guidance and support, and can take action on their behalf if they have concerns about a child who is either being abused or is at risk of abuse.
Margaret Gallagher, local campaigns coordinator for the NSPCC in Northern Ireland, said that delays in reporting concerns may contribute to the undue distress and suffering of a child experiencing abuse or neglect.
Most of the referrals made by the helpline concerned neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse, and largely originate from adults who might otherwise contact no other agency.
Margaret Gallagher, NSPCC
"We understand that it's incredibly difficult to pick up the phone, and we are really grateful to those people who do take action when they have concerns," she said.
"People clearly have the desire to act but are unsure how or when to do it. What we would emphasise is that trained professionals assess the information given and either give advice and support to the caller or make a referral to children's services or police if required.
"You can't be expected to know for certain and that's where the NSPCC can help."
Ms Gallagher explained that many children whom adults contact the charity about are not already known to social services or police.
"The majority of contacts leading to referrals came from members of the public, not from family members or professionals," she continued.
"While many of the contacts to the helpline simply result in our counsellors providing child protection advice and guidance to parents, relatives, friends and members of the public, the key message we want to send is 'Don't Wait Until You're Certain'."
Neil Anderson, head of NSPCC services in Northern Ireland added: "The important thing for everyone to know is that this an around-the-clock service where adults can report, or seek advice on, child protection concerns.
NSPCC Helpline telephone: 0808 800 5000
"We will continue to work with colleagues in the statutory and voluntary sectors, and the general public in Northern Ireland, to raise awareness of the helpline."