This report is based on a number of premises concerning neglect and emotional harm, drawn from the robust research findings referred to in Section 4 (p29). Neglect of a child can take a variety of forms (see p15). Emotional harm is linked with neglect throughout the report. It is one possible outcome of all forms of maltreatment, and we draw attention to the strength of current evidence that all forms of neglect are particularly associated with damage to children’s emotional competence – their sense of identity, their self-esteem and confidence with others, in ways that compromise all of the Every Child Matters outcomes. Signs of such damage emerge from the pre-school years onwards and can endure into adulthood. Successful substitute care becomes increasingly hard to achieve (see p37, quote p47). This can happen whatever form neglect takes, and whether it is intentional or otherwise. 7 Neglect and other forms of maltreatment Emotional abuse is treated in this paper as a separate form of maltreatment often with implications of intended harm (see p15). It can co-exist with emotional and psychological neglect, particularly in the form of emotional unavailability, indifference or coldness.
Emotional abuse is treated in this paper as a separate form of maltreatment often with implications of intended harm (see p15). It can co-exist with emotional and psychological neglect, particularly in the form of emotional unavailability, indifference or coldness. The overlap between neglect and many other forms of maltreatment to children is one of the many challenges the report identifies. For example, over-discipline of a child by one parent may mask neglect by another, and adults’ problems often have a similar effect of making the child invisible. Neglect is associated with future maltreatment (p24) and the most serious and life-threatening abuse is often found to follow a history of increasing neglect (see p25). It is therefore vital to achieve consistency across agencies in the understanding and use of definitions by the various professionals involved, and in how these are applied to thresholds for action. Agencies should not revise their definitions and thresholds without full consultation, which may itself clarify issues of joint working. Otherwise the debate (“is this neglect?”) has to be repeated at length case by case, delaying the response to a child’s or a family’s needs. Professionals were unanimous in feeling that best practice should mean a sensitive but prompt and pre-emptive response to early signs of child neglect (i.e. if in doubt, respond), rather than the current prevalent “wait and see” approach, which was at best potentially damaging and at worst dangerous. The report describes tools that assist multi professional groups in achieving a more rapid joint assessment of neglect. It pulls out salient features of neglect identified in the study and proposes action points.