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“Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or developmental needs. Neglect includes failing to provide for a child’s health, education, emotional development, nutrition, clothing, shelter, safety and safe living conditions and includes exclusion of the child from the home and abandonment” NPSCC 2014

None of the signs outlined below would indicate for certain that a child is being neglected but children who are persistently and severely neglected may be in danger. Some parents/carers simply need more resources and support to properly care for their children, but some have more complex problems. In both cases, they need help from professionals.

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight SCPs have used the research of Howe 2005 which highlights four types of neglect:

Emotional neglect ranges from ignoring the child to complete rejection. Children suffer persistent emotional ill treatment, they feel worthless and inadequate. Their parent keeps them silent, scapegoats them and show them no affection or emotion.

Disorganised neglect ranges from inconsistent parenting to chaotic parenting. The parents feelings dominate, children are demanding/action seeking and there is constant change and on-going disruption.

Depressed or passive neglect ranges from a parent being withdrawn or detached to suffering from severe mental illness. There will always be a greater focus on themselves than the children. They will fail to meet their child’s emotional or physical needs and will appear passive and helpless.

Severe deprivation neglect ranges from a child being left to cry to a child being left to die. Both the home and the child will be dirty and smelly. Children will be deprived of love, stimulation and emotional warmth. The parent will completely ignore them. Often children become feral and roam the streets.

Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance misuse. Children need adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, warmth, protection and health care and they need their carers to be attentive, dependable and kind and protective.

Neglect can have a debilitating and long-lasting effect on a child’s physical wellbeing, and on their mental, emotional and behavioural development. In some cases the effects can cause permanent disabilities and in severe cases, death.

Signs that a child could be suffering neglect include:

  • Living in an inadequate home environment
  • Being left alone for a long time
  • Being persistently ignored by parents/carers
  • Poor appearance and delayed development
  • Taking on the role of carer for other family members
  • Seem hungry or turn up to school without having breakfast

Physical effects of neglect may include:

  • Faltering weight or growth and not reaching developmental milestones
  • Poor muscle tone, prominent joints, tiredness
  • Poor skin, untreated nappy rash, sores, flea bites
  • Thin or swollen tummy
  • Poor hygiene, like being dirty or smelly
  • Untreated health problems such as dental issues
  • Unwashed clothing
  • Inadequate clothing, such as not having a coat in winter

Emotional and behavioural effects may include:

  • Difficulties with school work
  • Missing school
  • Being anxious about or avoiding people
  • Difficulty in making friends
  • Being withdrawn
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Drug or alcohol misuse

Neglect Strategy and Toolkit

The Isle of Wight and Hampshire LSCPs have developed a Neglect Strategy to set out their approach to tackling neglect. The strategic aim is to prevent and reduce the impact of neglect and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. 

To fulfil this aim, it is imperative that neglect is recognised early and prevented, and that all agencies involved in the care and support of children and families work in partnership to effectively, collectively and consistently respond to all children considered to be at risk of neglect.

The strategy also identifies key principles and key priority areas of work in order to improve the local multi-agency response to neglect. 

The revised strategy is applicable to all professionals who work with unborn babies, children and their families across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. It is underpinned by a strengths-based, family focused approach to partnership work.

In addition, a toolkit with case studies, practical advice and information has been developed to assist practitioners in responding to Neglect.

There is also a Neglect Threshold Indicators chart - a guide to recognising neglect in children.