Putting child neglect in the spotlight

Child neglect is preventable - not inevitable, says Peter Wanless

Child neglect is still very much a problem in 2015, and it's taking a massive human and economic toll. Child neglect happens when a parent or carer is not meeting the basic needs of a child, such as the need for love, physical care or safety.

Across the UK, we know that far too many childhoods are damaged by neglect, very often because parents are facing problems that they can't solve alone.

But child neglect is preventable - not inevitable. 

Over the next month, we'll be sharing with you our learning from newly published reports and our service evaluations, as we put child neglect in the spotlight.

We'll examine what we can all do earlier, to prevent neglect causing children lasting harm and disrupting family life. 

The cost of child neglect - we can prevent it

Early help stops children suffering unnecessary harm. Prevention and early help is also more cost-effective than picking up the pieces; currently the the Early Intervention Foundation estimates the yearly cost of late intervention at a staggering £17bn1.

Our report 'Thriving communities: a framework for preventing and intervening early in child neglect' sets out a range of actions across 5 different levels of society that we believe will help prevent child neglect and tackle it at the earliest opportunity.

Our report, 'Realising the potential: tackling child neglect in universal services', focuses specifically on universal services in England. It draws on research with 893 health visitors, school nurses, GPs, midwives, teachers and early years practitioners in England, as well as children and young people. 

The report finds that universal services practitioners feel responsible for addressing neglect and providing early help, but they don't always know what to do about it. We found that 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. This puts a strain on the system and doesn't always solve the problems at hand.

Read our latest reports on child neglect

Learning from services that work

Our neglect services work directly with children and families across the UK, and are thoroughly researched and evaluated to make sure that the approaches we take are the right ones. 

Together, we can prevent child neglect

We want to ensure that children and families who are struggling get a better deal than they do at present - with somewhere to turn to and a reliable way forward.

If we all share responsibility for change, we know that neglect can be prevented. 


  1. Early Intervention Foundation (2015) Spending on late intervention: how we can do better for less (PDF). [London]: Early Intervention Foundation.