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Neglect is one of the most enduring and damaging experiences for a child or young person. It can result in permanent reduced functioning which has a lifelong impact on the child’s health and development.

Neglect is defined as 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
  • Ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment

It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs. This could be when a child’s/young person’s personal or intimate requirements are ignored, not ensuring children/young people are safe, or exposure to undue cold, heat or unnecessary risk of injury.

Some possible signs of neglect are:

  • Constant hunger
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Constant tiredness
  • Poor state of clothing
  • Untreated medical problems
  • Compulsive eating
  • Scavenging

Neglected children:

  • Have some of the poorest long-term health and developmental outcomes
  • Are at high risk of accidents
  • Are vulnerable to sexual abuse
  • Are likely to have insecure attachment patterns
  • Are less likely than other children to develop the characteristics associated with resilience or have access to wider protective factors

Children can experience different forms of neglect:

  • Medical neglect
  • Nutritional neglect
  • Emotional neglect
  • Educational neglect
  • Physical neglect
  • Lack of supervision and guidance

Neglect is bad for children’s:

  • Bodies - foetal neglect, delayed growth within the womb, non-organic failure to thrive, vulnerability to illness/infections/accidents and poor medical care
  • Learning - lack of exploration, delayed speech and language, impoverished play and imagination, special educational needs/learning disability, later educational failure and poor life skills
  • Brains - lack of nutrients resulting in reduced growth, lack of stimulation resulting in delayed brain development and unregulated stimulation resulting in disordered neural pathways
  • Emotions - disturbed self-regulation, negative self-identity, low self-esteem, clinical depression and substance abuse
  • Relationships - insecure/disorganised internal working model, attachment disorders
  • and blaming significant others for relationship problems like peers, teachers, substitute carers, professionals

Neglect is serious.

Neglect can cause impairment of health and development and impair aspirations and achievements.

At its worst, neglect can kill.

If you have any concerns that a child is being neglected, you must complete a Early Help Assessment.

The Early Help Assessment is a tool to help you identify a child’s/young person’s needs early, assess their needs holistically, deliver coordinated services and review progress as part of a multi-professional network known as the Team around the Child (TAC).

If you think that a child/young person is in immediate danger you must ring the police on 999.

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