More than five cases of child neglect in Swindon are reported to police every month by the NSPCC, new figures released by the charity have shown.

In 2016/17, the NSPCC’s Helpline dealt with 68 cases of neglect following calls or emails from concerned adults. The number represents a 17% increase on the previous year, and the highest they have ever dealt with in the town.

In other parts of Wiltshire, there were 103 cases reported to the NSPCC’s helpline, an increase of 14%.

Nationally, the figure stood at 16,882 referrals to the NSPCC’s Helpline or police across the year – equivalent to 46 cases a day.

Peter Wanless, the 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 is 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 is 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.”

The figures have been released in the NSPCC report How Safe Are Our Children?, which details examples of some of the concerns that members of the public have reported to their Helpline.

One neighbour told the Helpline: “The children are home alone again; I saw the mother leave the house earlier this morning and its past midnight now.

“I’ve seen the children peer through the curtains a few times as if they’re waiting for her. 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 as we are neighbours but at the same time I am really worried about the children. What should I do?”

The charity has warned that neglect can have serious and long-lasting effects, and highlighted common signs symptoms which can help to identify a child in need of help.

They include poor appearance and hygiene, being left alone for long periods and untreated injuries or illnesses.

Neglected children may also display poor language, communication and social skills, and regularly turn up to school hungry and unfed.