Councils must appoint expert social worker to advise on neglect, says NSPCC

'Corrosive' child neglect needs to be treated just as seriously as physical or sexual abuse, charity says

Every local authority should appoint an expert social worker who can advise professionals on cases of child neglect, the NSPCC is warning, amid concerns the abuse is still being overlooked.

The call comes as research for the charity revealed nearly 60% of children known to social services when they died or were seriously injured had been subject to a child protection plan for neglect at some point in their lives.

It was the most common reason social workers initiated a child protection plan, featuring in 58% of them, more than all the other types of plans combined.

It follows research by Community Care and the NSPCC, published last year, which found 60% of social workers felt under pressure to downgrade neglect cases because they were not a priority


How to improve your practice on neglect 

The impact of prenatal neglect

The impact of neglect on the infant: 0 – two years

The impact of neglect on the pre-school child: Two to four years

Reference manual for social workers: Child neglect

Tips for social workers

Top tips from a child protection lawyer for social workers preparing neglect cases for court

Source: Inform, NSPCC


Recommendations for strategic approach

The charity is now calling for a more strategic approach to tackling child neglect and made a number of recommendations for local authorities.

They include expert social workers to advise on neglect cases, improved tools and training to help professionals identify and evidence neglect and better community support for young people with a history of neglect.

Researchers analysed 645 serious case reviews carried out in England between 2005-2011 – 175 of which involved children on child protection plans. Of the 175 cases, 101 (58%) involved children who had been subject to a plan for neglect.

Dr Ruth Gardner, NSPCC lead on neglect, said the research provides clear evidence that neglect can lead to catastrophic harm as well as corrosive long-term damage to childrens wellbeing.

“Child neglect is just as serious as a child being physically or sexually abused, but many neglected children are falling through the child protection net,” she said.

“Most worrying are the cases where protection plans had been discontinued, when we know with hindsight that there was still a risk of death or injury to the child. So, it is vital that neglect cases are not downgraded or closed too soon and vulnerable families continue to get support to reduce the risks to children.”

Child neglect can be easily sidelined

The research was led by Dr Marian Brandon, from the University of East Anglia, who pointed out neglect does not always lead to risk of death or serious injury, but can be easy to overlook.

“Some children died in an unsafe environment even though their parents were loving, for example through lack of supervision and in unsuitable sleeping conditions. Others could no longer look after their seriously disabled or chronically ill child and werent getting the help they needed,” she said.

“Professionals need to keep an open mind about the possibility of neglect having a fatal or very serious outcome for a child. But that must not stop them dealing with neglect in a confident and compassionate way for the sake of the child and their family.”

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