There are many factors that influence and shape the development of a child. Some are within the child, such as genetic factors, and others are from external sources such as physical, psychological and family influences, as well as the wider neighbourhood and cultural aspects.
Neglect is therefore often complex and not always immediately recognised. The impact will vary according to type, severity and length of time, making it difficult for those working with children and families to manage. Professional uncertainty, differences of opinion or undue optimism regarding levels of need and the criteria for significant harm can lead to long term exposure which substantially increase the risk to children.
Neglect of children remains one of the Lewisham Safeguarding Children Board’s (LSCB) key priorities. This strategy has been developed with multi-agency partners to set out Lewisham’s approach to child neglect.
This strategy should be viewed alongside the following key strategies, policies and procedures and government guidance in relation to neglect:
Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015) describes neglect as:
The persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:
- Provide adequate food, clothing or shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment)
- Protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger
- Ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate caregivers)
- Ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment
It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.
In addition the London Child Protection Procedures say:
1.38 Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance misuse, maternal mental ill health or learning difficulties or a cluster of such issues. Where there is domestic abuse and violence towards a carer, the needs of the child may be neglected. www.londoncp.co.uk/chapters/responding_concerns.html
Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child’s basic needs. Some of the signs of neglect include:
- Poor physical appearance – a child who is dirty, hungry, has a lack of appropriate clothing, bad hygiene, not having access to medical care and treatment
- Absence of supervision/boundaries – a child who is put in danger or not protected from physical or emotional harm, use of inadequate care givers, chaotic family environment with no boundaries or routines
- A child not getting the love, care and attention they need from their parents or carers
A child who’s neglected will often suffer from other forms of abuse as well. Neglect can cause serious, long-term damage to the child’s emotional, social and physical development having a profound impact on their future outcomes and in some cases can result in death.
It happens when parents or carers can’t or won’t meet a child’s needs. Sometimes this is because they don’t have the skills or support needed, and sometimes it’s due to other problems such as mental health issues, drug and alcohol problems or poverty.
Why is this important in Lewisham?
Neglect is the most common reason for a child to be the subject of a child protection plan in the UK. In Lewisham, approximately 70% of children subject to a plan are suffering from neglect.
What do professionals need to do?
Although you may be worried about a child, it’s not always easy for professionals to identify neglect. There’s often no single sign or incident that a child or family need help. It is more likely that there will be a series of concerns over a period of time that, taken together, demonstrate the child is at risk. If you think a child may be experiencing neglect, don’t wait:
- Gather all relevant information about the child, including the parenting capacity and family and environmental factors in order to form a professional judgment on strengths, risks and harmful factors
- Regularly review progress using the Toolkit below and update the multi-agency plan accordingly
Of course professional judgement has to be exercised in determining the harm or potential harm caused to a child by neglect but you should always consult with your agency safeguarding lead and refer to the Lewisham Continuum of Need document which will help you determine what sort of professional intervention will best meet the needs of the child and family.
Lewisham Neglect Strategy & Toolkit (January 2018)
Lewisham Neglect Toolkit (January 2018) (WORD DOCUMENT) & Graded Care Profile
LSCB Safeguarding Briefing - May 2018 - Neglect