Concerns neglect of teenagers isn't being reported

Our latest report on child neglect reveals that few adults contact our helpline with concerns about teenagers being neglected

boy sitting against garageWe're calling on the public to be alert to young people suffering from neglect after calls to the NSPCC helpline, reveals that few adults contact the service with concerns about teenagers suffering from neglect.

It follows the release of our Hurting Inside Report, which reveals that of the 23,037 children reported by the public, or referred by the NSPCC helpline, police or children’s services, only 16% were regarding children aged 12-18.1

At the same time, less than 1% (1016) of the children who contacted the NSPCC’s ChildLine service last year directly indicated that they were being neglected by their parents or carers2 – despite it being the UK's biggest child protection concern.

We believes these figures confirm concerns shared more widely amongst child protection professionals, that there may be an underreporting of older children suffering from neglect.

Therefore thousands of adolescents may not be receiving the support they need at a crucial time in their lives.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive says:

"Our data shows that while the general public are more alert and confident about reporting concerns about neglect in younger children, they are less so as they become older. However, unless there has been a positive intervention within the family unit, children are very unlikely to stop being neglected as they get older. In fact, in many cases the issue can become worse as children learn to fend for themselves out of necessity, give up on anything changing, often disguising the abuse they are suffering and are reluctant to approach services for help.

At Childline we are receiving a huge rise in contacts from young people where there is a concern for their mental wellbeing, including low self esteem and unhappiness. We must ask ourselves if some of these young people are presenting the longer-term signs of neglect, the impact of which can be catastrophic.

We must fight for every childhood and that means everyone, the public and professionals to be increasingly curious about the care, love and attention being offered to adolescents who may have been living with neglect for a lifetime."

Worried about a child?

Contact our trained helpline counsellors for 24/7 help, advice and support.

Call 0808 800 5000 or

The long-term affects of child neglect

The impact of neglect on older children manifests itself in many forms; these children are more likely to experience mental health problems including depression, struggle with their education and have low self esteem. Young people who don’t get the love and care they need from their parents and carers may also find it difficult to maintain healthy relationships; they might have behavioral problems, learning difficulties and they might find it difficult to communicate with others.

Ruby3, a 13-year-old girl who called ChildLine said:
"My mum is not giving me proper food at home and I never see her. All I have had today is an energy drink. Even the food that we do have is mouldy and mum hides the good food from me. I have run away before and I am thinking about running away again . I am not happy, I don’t like it there and I feel unwell both emotionally and physically. I have told people about the neglect and physical abuse at home but they are not doing anything about it – I don’t think anyone believes me."


  1. All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the individual. Further details of the case are available on request.

  2. Figures relate to April 2014 – March 2015. Neglect has been the top form of abuse which concerned adults contact the NSPCC helpline about since 2006; last year (2014-15) 17,602 adults contacted the NSPCC helpline about neglect – of these cases 14,583 were so serious that they had to be referred to the police and children’s services. These referrals involved a total of 26,275 children – and in 23,037 of these cases the age of the child was known.

  3. In 2014-15, there were 1016 ChildLine counselling sessions with children and young people about neglect. The age of the child was known in 859 of these sessions and out of this 604 (70%) involved a child aged 12 to 18.