What to look for

Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic and essential needs. Children need adequate food, water, shelter, warmth, protection and health care and they need their carers to be attentive, dependable and kind. Nearly 1 in 10 children are neglected by their parents, causing serious and long-term damage. There are many signs that may indicate neglect. 

If your instincts tell you that something is wrong then you should take action. 

Why are children neglected?

There are many reasons why child neglect happens. Some adults:

  • find it difficult to organise their lives, leading to a chaotic home life for children
  • do not understand the needs of their children, possibly because they did not receive adequate parenting themselves
  • find it difficult to show their feelings, neglecting their child’s emotional needs

Children at risk of neglect

Some children are more vulnerable to neglect, such as children who are in care, seeking asylum or who live in families with cases of domestic abuse, drug or alcohol misuse or with parents with mental health problems.

What you should do

None of the signs outlined here would indicate for certain that a child is being neglected – busy family homes are often untidy or in need of a vacuum; children get nits and their clothes become dirty. But children who are severely and persistently neglected may be in danger. If you think a child is in immediate danger Contact the police on 999, or Children’s First Response Team.

Deciding if a child is neglected can be very hard – even for a trained social worker – and it’s natural to worry that you may be mistaken. Some parents and carers simply need more resources and support to properly care for their children, but some have more complex problems. In both cases they need help from professionals.


Offer support to the parent or carer if you feel that the situation in less serious and you can talk to them.


Put yourself at risk if you think that you may make matters worse.

Types of neglect

  • Physical neglect is failing to provide for a child’s basic needs such as food, clothing or shelter. it also includes failing to adequately supervise a child or provide for their safety.
  • Educational neglect is failing to ensure a child receives an education.
  • Emotional neglect is failing to meet a child’s needs for nurture and stimulation, perhaps by ignoring, humiliating, intimidating or isolating them. It’s often the most difficult to prove.
  • Medical neglect is failing to provide appropriate health care, including dental care and refusal of care or ignoring medical recommendations.

Source: Horwath, 2007

Graded Care Profile Tool

Trafford Strategic Safeguarding Partnership has rolled out training to the Universal Services of the Graded Care Profile 2 which is a tool for measuring the quality of care being provided to children by their parent/carers.  This tool is licensed from the NSPCC and aims to:

    • Help professionals manage and monitor their caseloads more effectively
    • Direct the right support to the families who need it most

Key practitioners who undertake home visits as part of assessments or interventions should attend the accredited training to use the tool.  The experience of practitioners and families where the tool has been used is monitored to establish and measure the impact that the use of the tool has made to such families.

Strategy and Resources

The TSSP Neglect Strategy is available here, alongside the Neglect Guidance and the Neglect Quick reference guide.

The Cardiff University, Department of Child Health and NSPCC have produced Core-Info leaflets on how neglect and emotional abuse affects children.

The TSSP has also produced a briefing on neglect.