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Every family is different, but all children should be kept safe, feel loved, and get an education. All children need to feel safe and have rules and boundaries. Most parents/carers do everything they can to look after their children, but some may have difficulties with this and there are adults whose job it is to help them with that.

Most parents/carers do everything they can to protect their children and make sure they’re brought up in a loving and caring environment, but families can sometimes have difficulties and children may suffer as a result. All adults need to keep children safe and if an adult is worried about a child, they must do something about this.

Being badly treated or abused is defined as NeglectPhysical AbuseEmotional Abuse or Sexual Abuse.

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.

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 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 use