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Monday, March 22, 1999 Published at 11:31 GMT


Duke launches £250m child appeal

Duke of York: "We must confront the problem"

The Duke of York has launched a £250m fundraising campaign aimed at eradicating all cruelty to children.

Angus Stickler reports: The first person to sign a pledge to end cruelty to children"
The Full Stop Campaign, by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), is said to be the biggest fundraising appeal by a charity in the UK.

It aims to wipe out all cruelty to children in the UK within 20 years.

[ image: Celebrity Zoe Ball is also backing the appeal]
Celebrity Zoe Ball is also backing the appeal
The duke, who is the campaign's chairman, launched the appeal at a star-studded event at The Theatre Royal in London's Drury Lane.

Celebrity boost

Flanked by Tony Blair, Cilla Black, schoolgirl soprano Charlotte Church and Andrew Lloyd Webber, he became the first signatory of the NSPCC Pledge To End Cruelty To Children.

He said: "Countless children and young people throughout the nation desperately need the services of the NSPCC.

[ image: Rupert Bear features in the advertising campaign]
Rupert Bear features in the advertising campaign
"I'm calling on every individual, company and organisation that cares about children to get involved in the campaign to show that cruelty to children is unacceptable and must not be tolerated."

Other celebrities and politicians supporting the campaign include Zoe Ball, Boyzone, Vinnie Jones, Gary Lineker, Sir Cliff Richard and Baroness Thatcher.

TV advertisements

The campaign has already begun to broadcast hard-hitting TV advertisements, featuring the Spice Girls and England football captain Alan Shearer.

"The advertising campaign does have to be hard-hitting," the duke told the Press Association.

"If we can make people aware of the problem, we're half-way to fixing it. We've got to confront it," he said.

[ image: The Spice Girls lent their name to the adverts]
The Spice Girls lent their name to the adverts
An NSPCC pledge form will be delivered over the next few weeks to all 23 million households in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in one of the biggest 'door-drops' ever.

The charity hopes that more than one million people will sign the pledge within a year.

The duke said: "It is a long-term aim. The NSPCC hopes to raise £250m over a period of five years as an investment for the next 20 years."

Five key areas

The £250m will pay for a range of new services, enabling the NSPCC to help 100,000 children a year - five times more than it currently reaches.

The charity has divided its drive into five themes:

  • Protecting the child
  • The child in the family
  • The child in the school
  • The child in the community
  • The child in society

Within these areas, it plans specific projects including:

  • More schools counselling teams
  • More regional units investigating organised abuse
  • Public campaigns on key child protection issues
  • Doubling the £1m a year spent on its child protection helpline, including new services in Welsh and Asian languages
  • A study of the scale and scope of child abuse in the UK
  • Distributing the NSPCC Birth Pack to all parents of new babies from 2000 onwards
  • Encouraging schools to get the issue of protecting children onto the curriculum

[ image: The duke's daughters Beatrice and Eugenie]
The duke's daughters Beatrice and Eugenie
An NSPCC spokeswoman said the duke was asked to be the campaign's chairman because of his "energy, commitment and passion" and because he is a parent.

The duke, 39, has two daughters, Princess Beatrice, 10, and Princess Eugenie, nine on Tuesday.

His aunt, Princess Margaret, remains the charity president, but the duke said there would be no "lines of interference".

"Princess Margaret will still be in charge day-to-day and will campaign in the regions while I'm in London," he said.

35,000 children at risk

The NSPCC said statistics show that every week at least one child is killed through abuse or neglect.

The homicide rate for infants is almost five times higher than that faced by the rest of the population.

About 35,000 children are on child protection registers.

There are at least 110,000 adults living in the UK who have been convicted of sex offences against children.

More than a quarter of all rape victims are children.

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