Thriving communities: a framework for preventing and intervening early in child neglect How we can act now to stop child neglect

Teenage boy and two teenage girls walking in a parkNeglect is the most prevalent form of child maltreatment in the UK. Evidence is growing that we can both prevent and intervene effectively to stop child neglect.

This report is for national and local decision-makers and commissioners. It sets out actions across five levels of society - children, parents, communities, universal services and local government - to help stop child neglect. The report focuses on taking action before the need for intervention from children's social care at a Child in Need or Child Protection level.

Authors: Alice Haynes, Chris Cuthbert, Ruth Gardner, Paula Telford and Dawn Hodson
Published: 2015

Relationships: the most important relationship is between the child and their parents. But wider relationships with practitioners, local communities and support networks are also key to preventing neglect.

Knowledge and awareness: everyone needs to understand what child neglect looks like, why it happens and what to do about it.

Evidence-based responses: evidence shifts practice from what we think works to what we know works. We need to draw on evidence-based approaches, tools and services to effectively tackle neglect.

Children and young people

  • Use the Personal Social Health & Economic Education (PSHE) curriculum to increase knowledge and awareness of healthy child development and neglect.
  • Develop positive and trusting relationships between children and practitioners. In health services for example, promote the role of school nurses; make sure children see the same health professional at each contact.


  • Ensure universal provision of perinatal education classes to provide understanding of child development, attachment and care.
  • Provide targeted support services for parents with additional needs that are accessible, high-quality and evidence-based.
  • Ensure practitioners are equipped with parental engagement skills; supported by evidence-based assessment tools; able to access reflective supervision. 


  • Pilot public education campaigns to promote understanding of healthy child development and positive parenting and encourage help-seeking behaviour for emerging parenting difficulties. 

Universal services

  • Clarify the role universal services practitioners have in providing early help for child neglect.
  • Increase staff knowledge of how to provide early help through specific training provided pre-qualification and at least every three years.
  • Increase capacity by drawing on Family Support Workers and other pastoral workers for early help support. 

Local Government can help communities thrive by:

  • understanding the size of the problem by regularly collecting data on the number of children classed as ‘in need’ because of neglect, and on parental risk factors.
  • commissioning evidence-based services and evaluate strategic approaches such as early help hubs and Early Help Strategies.
  • redirecting funding to prevention of child neglect through better and smarter investment in early help.
Figures and tables 4
Executive summary 5
Introduction 10
Three key building blocks 19
Level 1: Children and young people 21
Level 2: Parents 25
Level 3: Community 33
Level 4: Universal services 41
How can local government help communities thrive? 48
References 52
Appendix A: Programmes that target parental risk factors for neglect 61

"A concerted shift to prevention where everyone – children, parents, communities, universal services and local government - works together to help children thrive, preventing neglect before it happens and nipping early problems in the bud."

Please cite as: Haynes, A., Cuthbert, C., Gardner, R., Telford P. and Hodson, D. (2015) Thriving communities: a framework for preventing and intervening early in child neglect. London: NSPCC.

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