Child neglect still an issue in the UK

Child neglect still an issue in the UK

A new survey paints a disturbing picture of child neglect with 90% of social workers, police officers and teachers regularly coming into contact with children they believe may be suffering from neglect, although 40% of them feel unable to intervene.

The report comes from the children’s charity Action for Children and is entitled “The State of Child Neglect in the UK”. Other findings include 44% of members of the public urging more support in reporting concerns, a figure which has almost doubled within three years, while 14% of professionals have reported a rise in suspected child neglect over the past 12 months. The majority, 70%, say that parenting skills or the lack of them, are an important factor in the increase in child neglect with other contributory factors seen as increased poverty and more family breakdowns.

The professionals who felt unable to intervene on a child’s behalf, said that a shortage of available services, time and staffing were all factors while almost a third said that government spending cuts may make it even harder to intervene in the future. Amongst members of the public, a third who had concerns, said they were discouraged from taking the matter further with reasons why varying from the belief they did not have enough evidence, being unsure whether it actually would be classified as neglect and fears about the repercussions of making their concerns public.

Action for Children says that neglect is a contributory factor in about 60% of child deaths or serious injuries which are investigated by serious case reviews. The survey involved 6,000 people who ranged from members of the public to a number of different professionals. It recommended that the government introduce a web-portal with a postcode function which would assist those in getting help in their local area. It also called for the government to put measures in place which would help the professionals involved make decisions as early as possible so those suffering the neglect can get help quicker.

Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of the charity, said the findings were a grave concern and said more must be done to give members of the public the ability to make their concerns known. She added that she too was worried that cutbacks were hampering the best efforts of professional bodies to find cases of child neglect and do something about them.

The Department for Education said it wanted social workers to be more assertive in their efforts to find cases of child neglect and added it was reducing levels of bureaucracy to help them in their efforts.

Child neglect is defined, by the NSPCC, as children being denied essential needs, which include adequate food, water, shelter, warmth, protection and health care. Its own research, published last year, found that one in six young adults were neglected at some point in their childhood, with one in seven secondary school children affected.