An alarming study from the NSPCC has revealed that 64% of adults would hesitate to help a child that looked lost out of fear of being falsely accused.
The fear of someone misunderstanding their intentions has become a huge barrier for people encountering a child who needs help, with 56% of women and 73% of men reporting this worry.
Less than half of respondents said they would approach the child, with 45% saying they would hang back and observe the situation.
While the highly publicised child abuse cases have cause some worrying and hesitation in strangers seeing a lost child, 44% have said that high profile cases such as Operation Yewtree has made them more likely to report suspicions.
On the other hand, 62% of people said they would worry about reporting suspicions about a neighbour out of fear being mistaken and causing trouble and one in three wouldn’t report suspicions out of fear of a confrontation.
The director of the NSPCC helpline, Peter Watt commented on their survey, saying that in many ways it was positive.
“People are increasingly willing to act if they suspect a child is being abused or neglected. Sadly though, whilst the right intention is there, people naturally hesitate,” Peter explained.
“They fear making a mistake or they want to wait until they have more evidence, which usually never arrives ... for men in particular, they worry their motives for approaching a child will be questioned.”
“We need everyone to understand that taking action is always the right thing to do – whether it’s a lost child in the street or an abusive neighbour.”
The director urges people to call the NCPCC helpline if they have any suspicions, even if they are not sure.
“Our trained and experienced counsellors will know what to do and can take the burden off you. It may save a child or help a family get the support they need to improve and stay together happily and safely. And no one will ever know you made the call.”