Neglect

The impact of neglect on children and young people is enormous, yet it can be difficult to define and research shows that it often co-exists with other forms of abuse and adversity. It is also the most common reason for child protection plans in the UK.  Neglect can be a catalyst to future vulnerabilities for young people, for some who have experienced neglect there are additional risks of harm as they grow up.

Neglect is the most prevalent child safeguarding issue in Hounslow and tackling neglect is a key priority for the Hounslow Safeguarding Children Partnership (HSCP) because of the serious impact it has on long-term outcomes for children. Our joint response to neglect has been driven by the HSCP and a multi-agency strategy has been developed in response to our improving knowledge and understanding of the causes and effects of neglect.

Key learning arising from two multi-agency case audits. Key themes include:

  • that children should be seen, heard and helped, with the importance of conducting home visits and seeing children in different environments
  • professionals need to identify and name Neglect as a potential concern.
  • when working across children and adult services remembering to “Think Family”
  • the additional vulnerability of children with disabilities.
  • the duty to respond and escalate concerns.
  • the importance of information sharing.

 

What is Neglect?

The persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:

  • provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment);
  • protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger;
  • ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care-givers); or
  • ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.

It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs” (Working Together)

Neglect often happens over a period of time, but can also be a one-off event. Incidents often don’t meet social care or criminal thresholds as it is the cumulative effect that is most impactful.

A child who is neglected will often suffer from other forms of abuse as well. Neglect is dangerous and can cause serious, long-term damage or even death

 

Neglect of adolescents

Like younger children, adolescents are more likely to experience neglect at home than any other form of child harm. Report by the Children’s Society into adolescents and neglect and support by Ofsted’s publication ‘Growing up Neglected’ found that there was evidence that professionals struggle to identify adolescent neglect and are unsure what to do when they come across it. This has partly been based on misconceptions, including that adolescents become resilient to neglect and that neglect is less harmful than other forms of maltreatment.

Neglect has been linked to a variety of problems for adolescents, including to ‘challenging’ behaviours e.g. poor engagement with education, violence and aggression, increased risk-taking (offending or anti-social behaviour, substance misuse, early sexual intercourse). It can lead to poor physical health, difficulties with relationships (with peers and adults) and be behind ‘internalised’ problems – e.g. low levels of well-being or mental ill health.

Like younger children, adolescents are more likely to experience neglect at home than any other form of child harm. A recent report by the Children’s Society into adolescents and neglect found that there was evidence that professionals struggle to identify adolescent neglect and are unsure what to do when they come across it. This has partly been based on misconceptions, including that adolescents become resilient to neglect and that neglect is less harmful than other forms of maltreatment.

Neglect has been linked to a variety of problems for adolescents, including to ‘challenging’ behaviours e.g. poor engagement with education, violence and aggression, increased risk-taking (offending or anti-social behaviour, substance misuse, early sexual intercourse). It can lead to poor physical health, difficulties with relationships (with peers and adults) and be behind ‘internalised’ problems – e.g. low levels of well-being or mental ill health.

 

Forms of Neglect

  • Physical Neglect; failing to provide for a child’s basic needs such as food, clothing or shelter. Failing to adequately supervise a child or provide for their safety.
  • Emotional Neglect; the omission of love and failing to nurture a child. Emotional neglect can overlap with emotional abuse but is a different form of maltreatment.
  • Educational Neglect; failing to ensure a child receives an education.
  • Medical Neglect; failing to provide appropriate health care, including dental care and refusal of care or ignoring medial requirements.

Signs of Neglect

  • Children who are living in a home that is undisputedly dirty or unsafe
  • Children who are left hungry or dirty
  • Children who are left without adequate clothing, e.g. not having a winter coat
  • Children who are living in dangerous conditions, e.g. around drugs, alcohol or violence
  • Children who are often angry, aggressive or self-harm
  • Children who fail to receive basic healthcare
  • Parents who fail to seek medical treatment when their children are ill or injured.

You may notice a child who is neglected because they:

  • become withdrawn
  • suddenly behave differently
  • are anxious, clingy and/or obsessive
  • become depressed and/or aggressive
  • take risks such as breaking the law, running away from home, getting involved in dangerous relationships which could put them at risk of sexual exploitation
  • have problems sleeping, nightmares
  • have a change in eating habits or suffer from eating disorders
  • wet the bed
  • soil their clothes
  • miss school
  • abuse drugs, alcohol
  • self-harm, have thoughts about suicide.

 

The Effects of Neglect

  • Children who have been neglected may experience short-term and long-term effects that last throughout their life.
  • Not only will it make a child’s life miserable but it affects all aspects of their development and future relationships. It can be anything from affecting early brain development, language delay, physical injuries from accidents, low self-esteem, poor school attendance, to; self-harm and suicide attempts.
  • In the worst cases, children can die from malnutrition or being denied the care they need and in some cases it can cause permanent disabilities.
  • Children who don’t get the love and care they need from their parents may find it difficult to maintain healthy relationships with other people later in life, including their own children.
  • Children who have been neglected are also more likely to experience mental health problems including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

Reporting Concerns

You may notice signs of neglect which could be the missing information to protect a child from harm.

  • If you are worried about a child or young person, talk to someone who works with them, such as their teacher, support worker, a youth worker or social worker.
  • If you are worried about child or young person, talk to your safeguarding lead.

You may notice signs of neglect which could be the missing information to protect a child from harm.

 

Message for children and young people

Sometimes it’s hard for us to see when we are not being treated right and this is when family, friends, neighbours and communities are so important. It is not okay for someone to hurt you and abuse is never your fault. If you or your friends are not getting the important things you need at home, you could be being neglected.

If you think you or a friend are being neglected at home? Talk to someone you trust such as a teacher or a friend’s parent and tell them what is happening.

If you don’t want to talk to someone you know you can contact Childline for support and advice on 0800 1111 or visit their page on the Childline website.

 

HSCP Quality of care and neglect toolkit

HSCP relaunched its evidence based Quality of Care (QoC) Assessment Tool, developed by Jane Wiffin in 2016. The tool is aimed to improve quicker identification and assessment of children who are at risk of neglect and support evidence gathering of childhood neglect taking place. The QoC was designed to support the identification and assessment children who are at risk of neglect and help professionals to reflect on the child’s circumstances, put your concerns into context and identify strengths and resources. It can also be used to inform decision-making, assessments and planning and used in one to one’s with managers or in supervision. It is a tool that can be used with families.

 

If you think a child in Hounslow is being abused or mistreated you should call and speak to someone on the Early Help team: 020 8583 6600