What is Neglect?
Neglect can be complex and is often difficult to define clearly because most definitions are based on personal perceptions of neglect. These include what constitutes "good enough" care and what a child's needs are. Neglect often co-exists with other forms of abuse and is often a pre-condition to allowing other abuse to take place.
Neglect is defined in Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018) 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); or • ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.
It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.
In addition to the Working Together 2018 definition, Horwath (2007) identified six different classifications of neglect:
- Medical neglect - the child’s health needs are not met, or the child is not provided with appropriate medical treatment when needed as a result of illness or accident. This includes a child who is not regularly taking prescribed medication, attending identified medical appointments such as dental, CAMHS, speech and language.
- Nutritional neglect - the child is given insufficient calories to meet their physical / developmental needs; this is sometimes associated with ‘failure to thrive’, though failure to thrive can occur for reasons other than neglect. The child may be given food of insufficient nutritional value (e.g. crisps, biscuits and sugary snacks in place of balanced meals); childhood obesity as a result of an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise has more recently been considered a form of neglect, given its serious long-term consequences.
- Emotional neglect - this involves a carer being unresponsive to a child’s basic emotional needs, including failing to interact or provide affection, and failing to develop a child’s self-esteem and sense of identity. Some authors distinguish it from emotional abuse by the intention of the parent.
- Educational neglect - The child does not receive appropriate learning experiences; they may be unstimulated, denied appropriate experiences to enhance their development and / or experience a lack of interest in their achievements. This may also include carers failing to comply with state requirements regarding school attendance and failing to respond to any special educational needs.
- Physical neglect - The child has inadequate or inappropriate clothing (e.g. for the weather conditions), they experience poor levels of hygiene and cleanliness in their living conditions, or experiences poor physical care despite the availability of sufficient resources. This includes the lack of encouragement and enabling from a parents to a child to achieve a good level of self-care including brushing hair, addressing head-lice. The child may also be abandoned or excluded from home.
Lack of supervision and guidance - The child may be exposed to hazards and risks, parents or caregivers are inattentive to avoidable dangers, the child is left with inappropriate caregivers, and/ or experiences a lack of appropriate supervision and guidance. It can include failing to provide appropriate boundaries for young people about behaviours such as under-age sex and alcohol use. ay also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs
For further guidance see the Neglect 7 Minute Guide (PDF, 388KB)
Cheshire East Safeguarding Children’s Partnership have developed a number of documents and tools into a neglect toolkit.
Cheshire East Neglect Strategy - 2021-2024
The Neglect Strategy (PDF, 660KB) works towards our partnership vision for children and young people in Cheshire East; through working TOGETHER we will make Cheshire East a great place to be young. We will make our families and communities strong, welcoming and supportive, where differences are respected and celebrated.
All our children and young people deserve to be happy, healthy and safe, and to enjoy a life which is filled with fun and opportunities to learn and develop. We are hugely ambitious for all our children and young people, supporting them to succeed and grow as individuals.