Half of social workers feel powerless to stop children being neglected because of high thresholds and inadequate resources.
That was the key finding from research published today by Action for Children in the first of a series of annual reviews into neglect, carried out for the charity by the University of Stirling.
Based on interviews with over 4,000 people, including professionals and members of the public, 51% of social workers said they felt powerless to intervene in cases of suspected neglect, up from a third in a similar survey conducted by the charity in 2009.
The latest research showed that 42% of social workers felt thresholds were too high. In cases where thresholds were met, 52% of social workers cited a lack of resources and 43% a lack of services to refer families on to as barriers to effective action.
And 80% of social workers warned that cuts would make it even more difficult to intervene in child neglect cases in future.
“All our findings point to the stark reality that neglected children and their parents are being identified, but neither the professionals nor the public feel empowered to help or intervene, particularly at the early stages,” said Action for Children chief executive Clare Tickell.
Social workers lacked the time or the facilities to carry out the detailed assessments required to establish neglect because of cuts in funding and to services such as family centres, said Ruth Cartwright, England manager for the British Association of Social Workers.
Action for Children called for government action to increase access to early intervention services for families and improve data collection about the scale of neglect and the effectiveness of services to stop it.
More information from Community Care Inform
Child neglect: reference manual
Guide to the impact of neglect in infancy: 0 to two years