Realising the potential: tackling child neglect in universal services How practitioners can play a leading role in tackling child neglect in England
Neglect is the most common reason for a child to be on a child protection plan in England. By providing early help we can prevent children suffering unnecessary harm and save resources in a child protection system increasingly under pressure.
This report draws on the views of 893 health visitors, school nurses, GPs, midwives, teachers and early years practitioners, and 18 young people (aged 11-24). They told us what help is currently provided by universal services to tackle child neglect, what the barriers are to providing early help and about their ideas on how services can be better supported to provide early help.
Using this research we set out a model for the provision of early help for neglect in universal services and make recommendations for what is required to get there.
Author: Alice Haynes
What professionals and young people told us
- All universal services practitioner groups believe they have a responsibility to identify neglect and provide early help. However, there's a lack of consensus within professions about what this looks like.
- All practitioner groups provide early help in a variety of ways. Differences between groups relate to the nature of the service provided but also highlight gaps in provision.
- Many practitioners provide early help through signposting families to other agencies and contacting other practitioners working with the child.
- However, too few practitioners talk to children about their concerns or monitor children when they are worried, and too many are referring straight to social care about early concerns.
- Barriers to the provision of early help include:
- workload and time pressures
- problems with multi-agency working and information sharing
- not feeling equipped to develop constructive relationships with parents
- lack of training on how to respond to child neglect
- lack of awareness of local thresholds for intervention
- young people feeling it's not always easy or possible to develop trusting relationships with universal services practitioners.
- Practitioners' ideas and examples for better practice include:
- government investment in early help
- enabling family support workers to provide high-quality early help through increased training and supervision
- Local Safeguarding Children Board-wide neglect strategies.
- Young people want a greater focus on building relationships with them.
Model for universal services to tackle neglect
- The model sets out a series of clear steps that form a pathway towards meeting a child’s needs.
- The pathway starts with identifying parental risk factors for child neglect.
- Stages include assessing a child’s needs, providing direct support to parents and children and reflecting on progress.
- At each stage practitioners should refer to their Local Safeguarding Children Board threshold document.
- Early help activities to support the child should take into account the child’s age and family circumstances.
- Support to meet the child’s needs should be provided within meaningful timeframes for the child.
Recommendations for successfully implementing an early help model
- UK Government, local government and commissioners must ensure resources are available to support universal services practitioners to provide early help.
- Professions within universal services must be clear about their role in providing early help.
- Pathways for the provision of early help need to be clear and accessible.
- Information sharing and multi-agency working should be open, professional and respectful.
- Practitioners should receive training and supervision that supports their confidence and ability to take early action before referring concerns to children’s social care.
- Relationship building between practitioners and families must be the focus of universal services delivery.
|List of charts, figures, graphs and tables||4|
|2. The policy and delivery context||18|
|Appendix A: Methods||122|
"Safeguarding is everybody's business therefore everyone has a role to play."
"Long-term relationships are the best cure I'd say. For someone to speak to, the ideal person is someone that has built up a long-term relationship and friendly and stuff like that."
Please cite as: Haynes, A. (2015) Realising the potential: tackling child neglect in universal services in England. London: NSPCC.
Neglect and its relationship to other forms of harm
Neglect and serious case reviews
Child abuse and neglect in the UK today
Neglect: learning from case reviews
Hurting inside: learning from the NSPCC helpline and Childline on neglect
Graded Care Profile 2
Evidence Based Decisions
Improving parenting, improving practice
Parents Under Pressure™
Emotional neglect and emotional abuse in pre-school children: Core info leaflet
Neglect or emotional abuse in teenagers: 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.
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.
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 the NSPCC Knowledge and Information Service to find out how we can help you with child protection queries, support your research, and help you learn and develop.