CHILD protection officers are reminding people to help children stay safe over Christmas.

The call comes at a time of year when reports of child abuse are normally at their highest.

Jim Murdoch, business manager of Hartlepool Safeguarding Children Board, said: “Christmas and New Year is an extremely joyful time for the vast majority of people but it can bring additional pressures that can impact on family life.

“At this time of year reports of child abuse normally increase and we want to make sure that people know what to do should they suspect that any child is vulnerable or at risk of being harmed.

“Incidents of domestic violence are also normally more prevalent and these can impact both physically and emotionally on children.

“Despite the fact that council offices are closed during the festive period, we still have all the mechanisms in place to act speedily if anyone is worried that a child is at risk.”

He said The Children Act 1989 states that abuse should be considered to have happened when someone's actions have caused a child to suffer “significant harm” to their health or development.

Anyone wanting to report child abuse can contact their local council, or if out of hours, can call the Emergency Duty Team on 08702 402 994.