Child neglect on the increase, says Action for Children

Action for Children has warned of an alarming rise in the number of child neglect cases in a survey released today.

A poll of nearly 2,000 primary school, pre-school, nursery and health professionals carried out on behalf of the charity by YouGov found that 11% reported an increase in suspected cases of child neglect over the last year.

However, 19% said that they had not been given the training or information needed to deal with neglect. The charity said that neglect was now a major issue but that it was an “overlooked area of child protection”.

It also warned that children could be slipping through the net with “potentially devastating consequences”.

Nearly a third of respondents said that they felt under more pressure to intervene in suspected child neglect cases than five years ago. More than two-thirds said that extensive media coverage of high-profile cases had contributed to this pressure.

Fifty-five per cent said that being able to report less serious suspicions earlier would have helped in dealing with cases, and 44% said that they needed clearer guidance from the government or their employers.

The survey also revealed the kind of evidence that alerted professionals to the possibility of neglect. Sixty-four per cent said that their suspicions were raised because of a child’s hygiene issues and 50% said they were worried about a child’s behaviour patterns.

Action for Children chief executive Clare Tickell called on the government to take heed of the findings and support early intervention services. She said: “Neglect is a growing problem and one we must fix. The same issues for neglected children and their families are coming up time and time again. Frontline staff are key to identifying early signs of neglect and giving children and families long term stable support to tackle the causes.

“Yet many professionals are telling us that they lack sufficient training and information to appropriately deal with suspected neglect.”

The results were released as the charity launched a nationwide appeal to raise £17m to help neglected children. Celebrity campaign supporter Davina McCall said: “Most people are unaware of neglect and that it’s happening on our own doorsteps. We all see neglected children without even knowing it and currently the issue is being overlooked to the detriment of children in the UK.”

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