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Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child’s basic needs. Some of the signs of neglect include:

  • Poor physical appearance – a child who is dirty, hungry, has a lack of appropriate clothing, bad hygiene, not having access to medical care and treatment
  • Absence of supervision/boundaries – a child who is put in danger or not protected from physical or emotional harm, use of inadequate care givers, chaotic family environment with no boundaries or routines
  • A child not getting the love, care and attention they need from their parents or carers

A child who’s neglected will often suffer from other forms of abuse as well. Neglect can cause serious, long-term damage to the child’s emotional, social and physical development having a profound impact on their future outcomes and in some cases can result in death.

It happens when parents or carers can’t or won’t meet a child’s needs. Sometimes this is because they don’t have the skills or support needed, and sometimes it’s due to other problems such as mental health issues, drug and alcohol problems or poverty.

Neglect of older children

In 2017 there was a Joint Targeted Area Inspection with a focus on the neglect of older children in 6 local authority areas. The report highlights the need for greater awareness of the neglect of older children and a focus on trauma-based approaches to tackling it. It also calls for a greater awareness among professionals in adult services of the risks of neglect of older children who are living with parents with complex needs. In response the Children’s Society has produced a really informative briefing for professionals on adolescent neglect that we would highly recommend reading.

Why is this important in Portsmouth?

Additional practice guidance has been developed in recognition that neglect is complex and can be hard for professionals to define clearly. It differs by type, severity, frequency and impact. It often coexists with other forms of child abuse making it difficult to identify and address in a timely way. Failure to identify and act on the early signs of neglect may have severe and damaging long term and enduring consequences for the child. This guidance and the accompanying Neglect Identification and Measurement Tool are aimed at supporting good practice in assessment.

Neglect is the most common reason for a child to be the subject of a child protection plan in the UK. In Portsmouth, approximately 70% of children subject to a plan are suffering from neglect.

Portsmouth’s partnership approach to neglect  – the PSCB has worked with partner agencies to develop an agreed approach to tackle the causes and effects of neglect in Portsmouth. In order to achieve this, the objectives of the PSCB Neglect Strategy are:

  • To strengthen local responses in line with current national and local guidance, policies and good practice
  • To ensure families receive a coordinated response from those who work with them and their children.
  • To adapt, rather than duplicate, existing guidance, policies or procedures to tackle neglect.
  • To raise awareness and improve the safeguarding duty of all relevant agencies with regards to neglect

What do professionals need to do?

Although you may be worried about a child, it’s not always easy for professionals to identify neglect. There’s often no single sign or incident that a child or family need help. It is more likely that there will be a series of concerns over a period of time that, taken together, demonstrate the child is at risk. If you think a child may be experiencing neglect, don’t wait:

Remember: risks of harm around a child can accumulate and combine. Using the Neglect Identification and Measurement Tool will help you identify points when you need to involve other agencies and / or escalate your concerns.