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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.

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  • Being withdrawn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 use

Worried About A Child?


In an emergency please call the Police on 999

If you are worried a child is, or at risk of, suffering, neglect or abuse please contact the Children's Reception Team on 0300 300 0117 (available 24 hours a day).

You do not need to know everything about the child before contacting the Children's Reception Team.
If you are concerned, it is important that you talk to someone about this.

NSPCC Phone Number: 0808 800 5000
A leading children's charity fighting to end child abuse in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. They help children who have been abused to rebuild their lives, protect those at risk, and find the best ways of preventing abuse from ever happening.

Childline - Phone Number: 0800 11 11

A free, private and confidential service where you can be you. Whatever your worry, whenever you need help, however you want to get in touch. We're here for you online, on the phone, anytime.