WELCOME to the first in a series of columns exploring child protection issues not only from an NSPCC and Childline point of view but hopefully answering some of the questions we all ask ourselves, writes NSPCC service centre manager Valerie Charles.

Am I confident in my ability to recognise signs of abuse and neglect? And perhaps most importantly do I have the confidence to take action?

Child abuse and neglect are very emotive issues and it is understandable that perhaps we would rather not want to think about it.

Pensioner jailed for 'horrendous' sex offences

Exacerbated, perhaps, with coverage of horrific court cases such as the recent sentencing of David Bolton to 22 years imprisonment at Bradford Crown Court for a campaign of rape and abuse against young girls which shocked us all.

And indeed when you look at the statistics it makes for harrowing reading. We know that one in 10 children in the UK have been neglected and one in 20 children have been sexually abused.

But please don’t be overwhelmed, it is imperative that we have the courage to talk about these issues, because only by doing so can we fight for every childhood.

Perhaps for some of us the problem may seem insurmountable. “What can I possibly do?” But we at the NSPCC know and see every day in our work with children and families that by all of us doing all we can and working together, we can both change and save children’s lives.

Ideally we would like to prevent sexual abuse from ever happening to a child, but unfortunately there are children out there who have been through the most traumatic ordeals that have turned their lives upside down, and they need help to address what has happened to them.

The NSPCC’s Letting the Future In service, which we run at a number of our service centres in the North including York and Sheffield, works with children who have been sexually abused to rebuild their lives so they can try to overcome the past and look to the future with hope.

Practitioners work with children aged between four and 17 in special play therapy rooms where they can freely express themselves.

I would like to tell you about one couple from the Yorkshire & Humberside area, whose names I have changed and who have benefited from Letting the Future In.

Daniel and Jenny’s five-year-old daughter Sarah was sexually abused by her classmate Thomas. Before accessing the service, Sarah was very angry and she hated school and being around other children. After she accessed the service, she grew in confidence and started making friends.

Daniel and Jenny feel that Letting the Future In made a huge difference.

They said: “We didn’t really know what to do. It was an awful time and we felt completely lost. It was difficult to know how to feel about the fact that another child so young had done this to Sarah.

"As soon as we started with the NSPCC, things began to change. We had someone to talk to who understood us. We saw an improvement in Sarah straight away.”

Around a third of child sexual abuse is committed by other young people and so we here at the NSPCC also work with children and young people who display harmful sexual behaviour with our Turn The Page service, at a number of centres here in the North including Bradford and Newcastle. These children need our help to move on from inappropriate behaviour, but we shouldn't forget that they are, first and foremost, children.

The sessions help the children and young people change their behaviour by identifying and managing their thoughts, emotions and actions.

Please don’t be disheartened at the scale of child abuse and neglect. With our therapeutic programmes, our school service which aims to reach every primary school child with age-appropriate safeguarding messages, and our Childline and Helplines which provide support to all those in need of a safe space to talk, the NSPCC is working hard to eradicate this blight on our society.

We can succeed with your help. Childhood shapes who we become, but abuse and neglect never should; and so we all have a part to play in keeping all children safe.

We won't stop until abuse does.