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Are you able to recognise the signs of child neglect?

Published: 24 November 2021

The six signs of child neglect

A shocking statistic from the NSPCC estimates that one in ten children in the UK have experienced neglect. To help residents in Surrey recognise and report neglect, the Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership and the NSPCC are working together to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of child neglect.

The signs of neglect

Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child's basic needs and the most common form of child abuse. A child might be left hungry or dirty, or without proper clothing, shelter, supervision or health care. This can put children and young people in danger, and it can also have long term effects on their physical and mental wellbeing.

The signs of neglect are often hard to spot, as neglect has many different forms. Take a look below to learn more about the types of neglect, how to spot the signs, and what to do if you suspect a child is being neglected.

1. Medical neglect

This is when a child's health needs are not met, or a child is not provided with appropriate medical treatment when needed as a result of illness or accident.

2. Nutritional neglect

This is when a child is given insufficient calories to meet their physical and developmental needs. The child may be given food of insufficient nutritional value (e.g. crisps, biscuits and sugary snacks in place of balanced meals). Childhood obesity as a result of an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise has more recently been considered a form of neglect, given its serious long-term consequences.

3. Emotional neglect

This involves a carer being unresponsive to a child's basic emotional needs, including failing to interact or provide affection, and failing to develop a child's self-esteem and sense of identity. It is distinguished from emotional abuse by the intention of the parent.

4. Educational neglect

This is when a child does not receive appropriate learning experiences. They may be unstimulated, denied appropriate experiences to enhance their development or experience a lack of interest in their achievements. This may also include carers failing to comply with state requirements regarding school attendance and failing to respond to any special educational needs.

5. Physical neglect

This involves a child having inadequate or inappropriate clothing (e.g. for the weather conditions), experiencing poor levels of hygiene and cleanliness in their living conditions, or experiencing poor physical care despite the availability of sufficient resources. The child may also be abandoned or excluded from home.

6. Neglect through lack of supervision and guidance

This is when a child is exposed to hazards and risks, parents or caregivers are inattentive to avoidable dangers, the child is left with inappropriate caregivers, or they experience a lack of appropriate supervision and guidance. It can include failing to provide appropriate boundaries for young people about behaviours such as under-age sex and alcohol use.

We can all do our part to keep children safe from neglect, and one of the first steps is being able to recognise the signs of neglect. It may be nothing, but it could be something.

What to do if you think a child is suffering from neglect

If you have concerns about a child in Surrey who could be suffering from any of these types of neglect, call Surrey's Children's Single Point of Access (C-SPA) on 0300 470 9100 or call 999 in an emergency.

To learn more about neglect, visit the Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership website or the NSPCC's website .

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