Neglect Legislation, policy and guidance

Each UK nation has its own official definition of neglect and its own statutory guidance setting out how professionals should respond to neglect and protect children from harm.

Early intervention strategies aim to tackle child neglect and each nation has their own policy initiatives in place to provide families with support.

Official definition

"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); ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child's basic emotional needs."

(HM Government, 2015)

Download Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (PDF)

Guidance

Working together to safeguard children

(HM Government, 2015)

Chapters 1-3 provide guidance on the legislative requirements and expectations on services to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, covering: assessing need and providing help; organisational responsibilities, including the requirement to appoint a qualified social worker to the role of designated officer for the management of allegations, unless the candidate has previous experience in the role; and, the statutory objectives and functions of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs).

Chapter 4 sets out a learning and improvement framework for LSCBs to monitor the effectiveness of local services and includes: a section on what constitutes a notifiable incident; a definition of 'serious harm' for the purposes of Serious Case Reviews.

Chapter 5 provides guidance on child death reviews listing specific responsibilities of relevant bodies in relation to child deaths.

Download Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (PDF)

Read more about the changes made to the statutory guidance in 2015 on the Legislation, policy and guidance for England page.

Policy

Troubled Families programme

The government's Troubled Families programme highlights the importance of early intervention in tackling a number of issues, including child neglect.

Official definition

"Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child's physical, emotional and/or psychological needs, likely to result in significant harm. It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate foods, shelter and clothing, failing to protect a child from physical harm or danger, failing to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment, lack of stimulation or lack of supervision. It may also include non-organic failure to thrive."

(Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), 2003)

Download Co-operating to safeguard children (PDF)

Guidance

Co-operating to Safeguard Children and young people in Northern Ireland

Replaces the ‘Co-operating to Safeguard Children’ guidance issued in 2003. It provides the overarching policy framework for safeguarding children and young people in the statutory, private, independent, community, voluntary and faith sectors. Outlines how communities, organisations and individuals must work both individually and in partnership to ensure children and young people are safeguarded as effectively as possible.

View Co-operating to safeguard children and young people in Northern Ireland
(Department of Health, 2016)

Policy

Children and Young People's Strategic Partnership (CYPSP)

The CYPSP in Northern Ireland focuses on early intervention for tackling a range of family problems, including child neglect.

It brings together a range of agencies with the aim to help children and families access support at the right time and as early as possible.

Official definition

"Neglect is 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.

It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, to protect a child from physical harm or danger, or to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of, or failure to respond to, a child's basic emotional needs.

Neglect may also result in the child being diagnosed as suffering from "non-organic failure to thrive", where they have significantly failed to reach normal weight and growth or development milestones and where physical and genetic reasons have been medically eliminated.

In its extreme form children can be at serious risk from the effects of malnutrition, lack of nurtuting and stimulation. This can lead to serious long-term effects such as greater susceptibility to serious childhood illnesses and reduction in potential stature. With young children in particular, the consequences may be life-threatening within a relatively short period of time."

(Scottish Government, 2010)

Download National guidance for child protection in Scotland (PDF)

Guidance

National guidance for child protection in Scotland

(Scottish Government, 2010)

Provides the current guidance and a national framework for anyone who could face child protection issues at work. Further guidance has been published for health professionals, and protecting disabled children.

Download National guidance for child protection in Scotland (PDF)

Policy

National Parenting Strategy

The Scottish Government published a National Parenting Strategy in 2012 which sets out their commitment to:

  • strengthening family support
  • using early intervention strategies to tackle problems such as child neglect.

Official definition

"Neglect (esgeulustod) means a failure to meet a person's basic physical, emotional, social or psychological needs, which is likely to result in an impairment of the person's well-being (for examples, an impairment of the person's health or, in the case of a child, an impairment of the child's development)."

View the Social Services and Well-bring (Wales) Act 2014

Guidance

Safeguarding children

(Welsh Government, 2004)

Sets out the Welsh Government's guidance on child protection and safeguarding for local authorities in Wales.

Safeguarding children: working together under the Children Act 2004

Policy

Flying Start

Flying Start is a targeted early years programme for families with children aged under 4 years. It aims to provide early intervention services to families to help with a range of problems, including child neglect.

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