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Improving parenting, improving practice

Testing new approaches to help support parents struggling to care for their children

Our new programme 'Improving parenting, improving practice' supporting and challenging parents who are struggling to care for children aged four to ten years.

Recent NSPCC research shows almost one in ten children have suffered parental neglect at some point in their childhood. More than one in a hundred has suffered severe physical neglect.

More children are subject to a a child protection plan - or are on a child protection register - for neglect than any other form of maltreatment, and the numbers are rising. Yet social workers often get stuck when working with complex cases of child neglect.

Neglectful parents may be struggling with:

  • poverty,
  • past abuse,
  • domestic violence,
  • mental ill-health,
  • disability, and
  • substance misuse.

Testing ways to help improve parenting and stop neglect

Parents who neglect their children often struggle with chronic problems like poverty, mental illness or drug and alcohol addictions.

We believe early intervention can help parents change their behaviour and stop problems escalating.

We are testing two approaches to see how they help parents bond better with their children and understand their needs. Both are carried out in the family home.

In the first approach, the NSPCC social worker:

  • records children playing a game or engaged in other activity with their parents
  • watches the film with parents,
  • building parents' confidence by highlighting what they do well and suggesting ways of improving interactions with their children.

You can read more about this approach in our article on Video Integration Guidance, with Children's Services Practitioner Olwen Prince.


Developed for parents at risk of neglect from depression, family conflict, or problems with the child's behaviour, the second approach involves NSPCC social workers:

  • tailoring a series of home visits and telephone support to the needs of each family
  • helping parents manage stress, anger, and mood swings

A first for the UK

We want to see more children get the level of parental care that they need to thrive.

These trials are the first of their kind in the UK and will provide powerful evidence of the effectiveness of early intervention approaches to prevent or halt child neglect.

Find out more about our work in this area

Why neglected children are a priority

Information on neglected children for professionals

Helping social workers make the right decisions in cases of neglect

Trialling a evaluation tool for assessing the care of children and identifying neglect

Helping parents of children under five give them the high level of care they need

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