The NSPCC is warning that a sharp increase in reports of neglect cases will place additional pressure on already stretched children's services.

The warning comes as new figures released by the charity show that reports to its helpline about neglect have doubled over the past two years to reach record levels.

The latest NSPCC helpline report shows there were twice as many calls and emails to the charity about neglect as in 2009/10 and is up by a third in the last year alone. In 8,600 of these contacts the concerns about children were so serious they required the involvement of police or social services. In other cases helpline counsellors provided advice, support and information to callers.

The rise in reports of neglect to the NSPCC comes as local children's services face unprecedented pressures, with more children being taken into care, and more families needing help at a time of significant funding cuts.

Dr Ruth Gardner, head of the NSPCC's neglect programme, said: "The NSPCC is working closely with professionals and local government across the UK to find out the best ways to identify and tackle neglect before it ruins children's lives. And we want the public to keep raising the alarm so families can be supported to prevent more children suffering the devastating consequences of neglect.

"Obviously if families will not or cannot improve, children must be protected and taken into care. But our experience shows that with the right support many families can improve their behaviour. The costs in both financial and human terms for supporting families to change are far lower than the costs of taking children into care."