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'1.5 million children in the UK experiencing neglect'

Action for Children

3 min read Partner content

Today Action for Children is launching in Parliament a major review of child neglect in the UK: Child Neglect in 2011.

The review reveals that while the public and professionals are becoming more aware of neglect, children themselves are too often left without help for long periods of time, and professionals feel increasingly powerless to intervene.

Neglect robs children of the childhood they deserve, leaving them with low self-esteem, anxiety or depression, and often influences the relationships they make with others, including later in life with their own children.

Up to 1.5 million children in the UK are thought to be experiencing neglect, and it is the biggest reason for a child to need protection from local services, yet neither local authorities nor national governments know how many children are experiencing neglect and are not therefore able to know what responses are needed and whether they are working.

Child neglect in 2011 reveals that more than half of social workers feel powerless to intervene when they suspect a child is being neglected –and this figure has increased from just over a third since 2009. Practitioners such as teachers and health visitors also share social workers' frustrations and find that it is difficult to get a response to their concerns. This is often due to insufficient resources and a lack of understanding about the threshold for intervention, which is often perceived as too high.

Action for Children's review also highlights that neglected children suffer from the influence of a forensic investigative system that is designed to look for 'hard' evidence of abuse and is not helpful for cases of neglect, which is unpredictable and cumulative. Action for Children is calling on the government to give social workers the space and time to undertake full and proper assessments that involve careful analysis.

Practitioners have clearly stated that there are not enough services to offer help to all children at risk of, or experiencing, neglect, whether by way of parenting support or direct help for children. Action for Children is calling on the government to ensure appropriate early intervention services, such as family and parenting support, are delivered over the long-term, and to rebalance the statutory framework to require local authorities to provide more low-cost, high-volume early intervention services, and consequently fewer high-cost services for children in acute need.

As the government responds fully to Professor Munro's review, there is a real opportunity to address the obstacles in the child protection system which currently prevent neglected children being helped early enough to make an effective difference. Action for Children is calling on the government to do more to understand the scale of neglect, give professionals the power to help, and ensure that families can access the early support that they need.

Child Neglect in 2011: An Annual Review is being launched today in the Terrace Marquee at the Commons, 4-6pm. Tim Loughton MP and Catherine McKinnell MP will be the keynote speakers, and all parliamentarians and researchers are welcome.

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