Neglect Preventing child neglect

Together we can prevent child neglect.

By identifying circumstances which put parents or carers under stress, and getting them the right help at the right time, we can protect children from possible neglect.

Preventing child neglect will take action from everyone – parents, communities, universal services and government – working together to help children thrive.

Neglect changes childhoods, but so can we.

Parents under stress

Parents may be dealing with complex problems that directly impact on their ability to meet their children's needs. These problems include:

  • domestic abuse
  • drugs and alcohol misuse
  • mental health problems.

We also know that external factors, like financial problems and poor housing or homelessness can make it more difficult for parents' to meet their children’s needs.

Tools to help identify neglect

Assessment tools can help practitioners get a clear picture of how well parents are looking after their children. They can support professionals in making timely evidence-based decisions to improve the child’s experience at home.

We are using and evaluating 3 different assessment tools in our work with families:

Supporting families through services

Once concerns are identified, early help can be provided by universal services or by targeted specialist services.

Universal services

Practitioners working in universal health and education services have a key role to play in providing early help for neglect. Ways in which practitioners can provide early help include:

  • talking to a child and their parents or carers about the concern, in order to understand the unmet need
  • collecting information about a child and their family
  • identifying which services are best placed to help a family by initiating a Common Assessment Framework or other assessment framework
  • monitoring a child’s situation
  • providing direct practical and emotional support to a child and/or their parents
  • signposting families to other specialist services where necessary.

Specialist services

A range of specialist services can provide early help to prevent child neglect as well as supporting families after neglect has been identified. Specialist services include adult social services, housing services, drug and alcohol services and support from voluntary organisations.

We provide early help services to families through our Improving Parenting Improving Practice service using Pathways Triple P and Video Interaction Guidance and our early intervention services:

Building relationships to prevent neglect

By listening to children’s experiences and helping families create positive change, we can stop neglect and prevent it from reoccurring.

Giving children a voice

Building safe and trusting relationships with children is vital so they can speak out about their experience at home. This involves:

  • teaching children what neglect is and how they can get help. This could be done as part of the Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) curriculum
  • professionals providing parents with good information and advice, emotional support and practical strategies that will minimise harm.

Empowering parents to make a positive change

Professionals can help to generate hope and confidence in families by giving them access to their own skills and resources by:

  • developing long-term positive relationships with parents
  • using a model with a theory of change to provide structure and a purposeful approach for addressing neglect
  • taking time to understand a family’s needs.

Enabling communities to support families

Communities have an important role to play in preventing and intervening early in child neglect. To make a difference, we need to make sure everyone in our communities can:

  • recognise the signs of child neglect
  • understand why it happens and what they can do to help
  • feel confident and supported to help
  • know how to find help if they are experiencing difficulties in their own family.

Together we can safeguard children from neglect

We all have a shared responsibility to safeguard children against neglect. Our report Thriving communities: a framework for preventing and intervening early in child neglect sets out concrete ways to make sure we get help to children as early as possible.

Work or volunteer with children and families?

Visit NSPCC Learning for information, resources and training to help you safeguard and protect children and young people across the UK.

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