A new definition of neglect

He’s the little boy that Santa Claus forgot

And goodness knows, he didn’t want a lot

He sent a note to Santa

For some soldiers and a drum

It broke his little heart

When he found Santa hadn’t come

Those lyrics often run through my head at Christmas when I see people out shopping for presents, because I know there are households that Santa fails to visit.

This was proven last week, when the ‘papers quoted 13 poignant words spoken by a five-year old boy from the North of England who’d been taken into care because his mother and her partner had neglected him.

“Santa doesn’t come to my house. I don’t know why. I’ve been good.

If those words don’t touch your heart, telephone the undertaker and ask him to collect you.

In my opinion, ‘neglected’ doesn’t come close to the way the child was treated.

I won’t go into the grim details of the appalling conditions he lived in, but he had no toys, didn’t know what a bath was for and had no idea how to wash himself. He didn’t even have a toothbrush.

Some children feel deprived without the latest gadget or designer trainers. This boy would wake on Christmas morning to find nothing at the end of his bed – not even a stocking filled with nuts, sweets and a Satsuma.

When I was growing up, my family were far from being well-off. But I knew how to wash myself, took baths, wore clean clothes and always had a shiny new annual and a bag of chocolate coins at Christmas.

The boy’s mother and her partner may have found life tough because they were on low wages or benefits. I’m not criticising people on benefits, because it only takes a few twists of fate and any one of us can slip down the financial slope and find we need to claim whatever’s available.

But with so many pound shops around, surely they could have bought some cheap toys, crayons, colouring books etc., which would have thrilled the little lad on Christmas morning?

Those same shops sell soap, shampoo, toothpaste and other basics – and there are retailers where you can kit out a child with T-shirts, trousers, shoes and coats for very little outlay. And caring parents, even those on low incomes, do just that.

The cruel way the boy had been treated was only discovered when he ran away from home.

Fortunately, he’s now in foster care and thriving, but when I think about the unimaginable squalor he’d been living in, a deep rage rises in me that I’ve rarely felt before. I just hope he’s begun a new, happier chapter in his life.

So, if you suspect that a child in your neighbourhood is being neglected, inform the authorities. If necessary say Phil Evans told you to.

If it’s a false alarm, I’ll take the flak.

It’ll be worth it to spare one more child saying…

Santa doesn’t come to my house.”