The findings reported here challenge the “failure in the mind” that is one response to the neglect of children; the attitude that no action will make any difference. Other responses to neglect were familiar to the professionals (one hundred, across all the main disciplines involved) who were interviewed. These responses included anger, avoidance, fear, blame, disagreement and denial. Some thought that they mirrored the feelings of many parents and the powerless state they often felt themselves to be in.
On the other hand there were also many examples of families, community members and professionals who overcame huge practical problems, engaged others to help and reinforced parental responsibility. Innovative and supportive resources were delivered. Occasionally the child could not remain with the family but, with the right support, the great majority were able to do so safely.
The report outlines what we believe is a strong and urgent case for a national strategy for child neglect that better reflects the holistic policy framework of Every Child Matters. Evidence-based strategies and international comparisons are discussed.
Analysis of the literature and interviews with professionals made it clear that this is one area where the scale and nature of the problem require a systemic and systematic response. Neglect makes up half of all child protection registrations (cases requiring a multi-agency protection plan); up to three quarters in some areas when joint categories of registration are included. A high proportion of children who are looked after have suffered neglect. All professions agreed that thresholds are so high that these figures represent the extreme tip of a much bigger phenomenon. Community based workers such as head teachers, school nurses and health visitors in some areas described up to eighty per cent of children they saw as showing signs of neglect.