Spotlight on preventing child neglect Overview of our child neglect research, evaluations and new evidence on effective early help

Girl smilingOur spotlight on neglect provides evidence that child neglect is still the most common form of abuse in the UK and is taking both a human and an economic toll.

This report gives an overview of our research on child neglect, evaluations of assessment tools and services, and new evidence on how we can work together to prevent child neglect. On the basis of this evidence we propose that, although challenging, it's possible to prevent and forestall child neglect.

This report is part of our Impact and evidence series.

Author: NSPCC
Published: 2015

Our report Hurting inside: NSPCC report on the learning from the NSPCC helpline and ChildLine on neglect provides key statistics on contacts to our helplines about neglect and shares what children are telling us about their experience of neglect.

  • Our helpline received over 17,600 contacts about neglect in 2014-15.
  • Lack of food is the top issue when children talked to ChildLine counsellors about neglect. Lack of food is often linked to parental alcohol or substance misuse or mental health problems.

Together with our local partners we've implemented and evaluated two assessment tools and three family services. We found that:

  • Graded Care Profile (GCP) helped practitioners assess neglect more accurately and identify the strengths parents can build on
  • North Carolina Family Assessment Scale (NCFAS-G) could assist in supporting sound decision-making and better evidence
  • SafeCare helped the majority of families who took part in the evaluation. It was valued by referrers - 91% said they would refer similar families to SafeCare in the future
  • Triple P was thought to significantly improve parents' relationship with their child, their parenting strategies and communications as well as children's behaviour.
  • Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) had similarly strong findings, with positive effects on children's behavioural and emotional difficulties.

Our new service, Thriving Families, brings together all these approaches in an integrated model to get the right help to families as soon as possible.

Our report Thriving communities: a framework for preventing and intervening early in child neglect is aimed at national and local decision makers. It puts forward a range of actions for preventing neglect including:

  • using evidence-based services for preventing and addressing neglect
  • increasing the community's knowledge and awareness of healthy child development, neglect and help seeking
  • enabling the development of positive and trusting relationships between children and the practitioners who work with them.

New research Realising the potential: tackling child neglect in universal services sets out a model for more effective universal services provision for neglect.

Overall, our evaluation and research findings provide evidence that:

  • there are services that work to tackle neglect
  • we can design better systems to pick up early signs of neglect
  • relationships make the difference.
Introduction: preventing neglect 4
1. Why child neglect? 6
2. What children and adults tell us about neglect 9
3. Services to help families thrive - fresh evidence 11
4. Effective early help - a new way forward with child neglect 16
Conclusions 22
References 23

"If we combine our determination and effort, we know that neglect can be prevented."

Please cite as: NSPCC. (2015) Spotlight on preventing child neglect. London: NSPCC.

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Related resources

Neglect and its relationship to other forms of harm

Findings from 3 linked evidence scopes investigating the relationship between child neglect and other forms of maltreatment. Makes evidence-based recommendations for policy and practice.
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Hurting inside: learning from the NSPCC helpline and Childline on neglect

What children are telling us about living with neglect and key statistics on contacts to our helplines about child neglect. 
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SafeCare: evidence from a home-based parenting programme for neglect

Evaluation of the SafeCare parenting programme focusing on the different perspectives of referral agencies, practitioners and parents. Part of the NSPCC's Impact and evidence series.
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Evidence Based Decisions in child neglect: evaluation of a new approach to assessment

Findings from an evaluation of our Evidence Based Decisions review service to support practitioners’ decision-making for children experiencing neglect. Part of the NSPCC's Impact and evidence series.
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Thriving communities: a framework for preventing and intervening early in child neglect

Concrete actions for national and local decision-makers and commissioners to help stop child neglect.
Find out more

Realising the potential: tackling child neglect in universal services

Sets out a model showing the way universal services practitioners can provide effective early help for child neglect.
Find out more

Neglect and serious case reviews

A systematic analysis of neglect in serious case reviews in England, between 2003 and 2011.
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Child abuse and neglect in the UK today

Research report into children’s experiences of abuse and neglect.
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Graded Care Profile

Assessing the care of children and identifying neglect.
Graded Care Profile service

Evidence Based Decisions

Reviewing family situations to protect children at risk of harm.
Evidence Based Decisions service

Thriving Families

Helping to define, detect and tackle neglect and provide the right support for families.
Thriving Families service

Improving parenting, improving practice

Helping parents who are struggling to care for their children.
Improving parenting, improving practice service

SafeCare

Encouraging, informing and promoting better parenting to protect young children from harm.
SafeCare service

Neglect

Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child's basic needs. It's dangerous and children can suffer serious and long-term harm.
Read more about neglect

Emotional abuse

Children who are emotionally abused suffer emotional maltreatment or neglect. It's sometimes called psychological abuse and can cause children serious harm.
Read more about emotional abuse

Emotional neglect and emotional abuse in pre-school children: Core info leaflet

Leaflet summarising what we currently know about children under 6 who have been emotionally neglected or abused. Part of the Core info leaflet series.
Find out more

Neglect or emotional abuse in teenagers: Core info leaflet

Leaflet on what is currently known about teenagers’ experiences of neglect and emotional harm. Part of the Core info leaflet series.
Find out more

Neglect or emotional abuse in children aged 5-14: Core info leaflet

A leaflet summarising how neglect and emotional abuse affects children aged 5 to 14. Part of the Core info leaflet series.
Find out more

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