Hurting inside: learning from the NSPCC helpline and Childline on neglect What we’ve learned about public awareness of child neglect and the issues faced by children experiencing neglect
The long term cumulative impact of neglect can cause deep-rooted and lifelong physical and psychological harm for a child. At its worst neglect can prove fatal. Through our NSPCC helpline and Childline we work to provide timely and decisive action to help stop child neglect.
In this report we share what children tell us about neglect to give a better understanding of the issues they face. We provide key statistics on contacts to our helplines about neglect and look at how adults recognise, report and understand child neglect. We show how a call can make a difference.
Author: Michelle Turnbull
Contacts to the NSPCC helpline
- Neglect is the top reason why people contact our helpline. We received 17,602 contacts about neglect in 2014-15. This is a 3% increase compared to the previous year and a 9% increase in neglect referrals when compared with the previous year.
- 67% of contacts were from the general public.
- 83% of contacts resulted in a referral to an external agency.
- 26,275 children were referred to an external agency (one referral can mention more than one child).
We need to encourage everyone to be more curious about older children’s circumstances and to follow up any concerns.
- Our helpline statistics show us that adults are more likely to recognise and report concerns about neglect for younger children.
- 84% of calls to the helpline were about children aged 11 or younger.
- In contrast, 70% of ChildLine neglect counselling sessions were with children aged over 12.
Children talking to ChildLine
- Children rarely recognise that what they are experiencing is neglect and are less likely to speak out about it. Less than 1% of ChildLine counselling sessions were specifically about neglect in 2104-15 (1,016 sessions).
- In almost a quarter (22%) of counselling sessions about neglect the young person had previously spoken to a teacher or social worker.
- In 2014-15 ChildLine made 53 referrals to external agencies about neglect, almost double the figure in 2013-14 (this figure represents 2% of all ChildLine referrals).
What children tell us about neglect
When a child or young person is counselled about neglect the main themes that come up are:
- parental alcohol and substance misuse and mental health issues
- left at home alone
- insufficient food or going without food
- problems at school
- physical and/or emotional abuse.
Of the young people who told ChildLine how long they had been experiencing abuse and neglect over a third (37%) said it had being going on for years and was still happening.
In 20% of neglect counselling sessions young people talked about low self-esteem, unhappiness, mental health issues, eating problems, self-harming behaviours and suicidal thoughts.
The top 5 feelings expressed by young people during counselling for neglect were:
- upset or tearful
- lonely, isolated or excluded
|Jan and Carly||4|
|Key facts from our helplines about neglect||5|
|Profile of contacts||6|
|Age and gender||7|
|Gender - ChildLine Neglect Counselling||8|
|ChildLine – method of contact||8|
|What children tell us||9|
|Mental health and wellbeing||12|
|How do neglected young people feel?||13|
|What happens when you contact the NSPCC helpline?||14|
|If you are worried about a child:||16|
|How to get in touch||16|
"Our house is filthy and I have to take care of my little brother all the time. I have started to harm myself to try and cope. I just feel like running away or ending my life."
Girl aged 14
"I was worried that if I didn't get the girl help no-one else would see how she was living. I couldn't have had it on my conscience if I hadn't done anything. As soon as I left the house I found the number for the NSPCC's helpline (0808 800 5000) and called them."
Brad, telephone engineer
Please cite as: Turnbull, M. (2015) Hurting inside: NSPCC report on the learning from the NSPCC helpline and ChildLine on neglect. London: NSPCC.
Realising the potential: tackling child neglect in universal services
Thriving communities: a framework for preventing and intervening early in child neglect
Spotlight on preventing child neglect
Neglect: learning from case reviews
Child abuse and neglect in the UK today
Neglect and serious case reviews
Speak out. Stay safe.
Graded Care Profile
Evidence Based Decisions
Improving parenting, improving practice
Parents Under Pressure™
Neglect or emotional abuse in teenagers: Core info leaflet
Emotional neglect and emotional abuse in pre-school children: Core info leaflet
Neglect or emotional abuse in children aged 5-14: Core info leaflet
Our Current Awareness Service for Practice, Policy And Research delivers free weekly email alerts to keep you up-to-date with all the latest safeguarding and child protection news.
CASPAR is currently being upgraded but you can still sign up by contacting our Information Service.
Your donation can take a child anywhere
Research like this helps keep children safe from abuse and free to dream – but we can’t do it without our generous supporters.
Follow us on Twitter and keep up-to-date with all the latest news in child protection.
We hold the UK's largest collection of child protection resources and the only UK database specialising in published material on child protection, child abuse and child neglect.
New in the Library
A free weekly email listing all of the new child protection publications added to our library collection.
New in the Library is currently being upgraded but you can still sign up by contacting our Information Service.
Helping you keep children safe
Read our guide for professionals on what we do and the ways we can work with you to protect children and prevent abuse and neglect.
Impact and evidence hub
Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.
Get expert training and consultancy
Sharing knowledge to keep children safe
Read our guide to NSPCC Knowledge and Information Services to find out how we can help you with child protection queries, support your research, and help you learn and develop.