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Impact of child neglect underestimated, warns NSPCC

Charity calls for more social work expertise in identifying child neglect

Child neglect is not being taken seriously enough and should be treated with the same urgency as physical or sexual abuse, says NSPCC.

New research,  conducted by the University of East Anglia  on behalf of the charity, has revealed that of children known to the authorities as being at risk, and who died or were seriously injured, 59 per cent had been on a child protection plan for neglect at some point in their lives.

Neglect and Serious Case Reviews analysed 645 serious case reviews carried out in England between 2005 and 2011 to understand what part neglect played in them. Of these, 175 involved children who were on a child protection plan either at the time or prior to their death or serious injury.

Dr Ruth Gardner, the NSPCC's lead on neglect, said:

"This study is the first time anyone has looked behind the stark figures to try and understand the complex dangers of neglect. We now have clear evidence that neglect can lead to catastrophic harm as well as corrosive long term damage to children's wellbeing."

The concerns raised by the research follow a previous survey conducted by the NSPCC which found that only one in 20 social workers felt timely action was being taken on child neglect and that they had experienced pressure to put neglect cases to the bottom of their workload.

The NSPCC is calling for every local authority to have an expert social worker who can advise on child neglect cases along with better training to help professionals recognise and act decisively on child neglect. It also wants to see a public health campaign so everyone can spot the signs of neglect and targeted support for vulnerable families.