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The damaging effects of severe neglect can lead to accidental injuries, poor health, disability, poor emotional and physical development, lack of self-esteem, mental health problems and even suicide.

Neglect can often become an issue when parents are dealing with complex problems, sometimes including domestic abuse, substance misuse, mental health issues, social-economic issues or they may have been poorly looked after themselves. 

These problems can have a direct impact on parents’ ability to meet their child’s needs. Even when parents are struggling with other personal issues they have a responsibility to care for their child or seek help if they are unable to parent adequately.

Definitions of neglect

In a review of the various definitions of neglect in 2007, Professor Jan Howarth identified the following types of neglect:

  • Medical neglect – this involves carers minimising or denying children’s illness or health needs, and failing to seek appropriate medical attention or administer medication and treatments.
  • Nutritional neglect – this typically involves a child being provided with inadequate calories for normal growth. This form of neglect is sometimes associated with ‘failure to thrive’, in which a child fails to develop physically as well as psychologically. However, failure to thrive can occur for other reasons, independent of neglect. More recently, childhood obesity resulting from an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise has been considered as a form of neglect, given its serious long term consequences.
  • 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. Some authors distinguish it from emotional abuse by the intention of the parent.
  • Educational neglect – this involves a carer failing to provide a stimulating environment, show an interest in the child’s education at school, support their learning, or respond to any special needs, as well as failing to complying with state requirements regarding school attendance.
  • Physical neglect – this involves not providing appropriate clothing, food, cleanliness and living conditions. It can be difficult to assess due to the need to distinguish neglect from deprivation, and because of individual judgements about what constitutes standards of appropriate physical care.
  • Lack of supervision and guidance – this involves a failure to provide an adequate level of guidance and supervision to ensure a child is physically safe and protected from harm. It may involve leaving a child to cope alone, abandoning them or leaving them with inappropriate carers, or failing to provide appropriate boundaries about behaviours such as underage sex or alcohol use. It can affect children of all ages.

A simple and helpful way to view neglect is to consider the needs of children and whether or not their parents or carers are consistently meeting such needs. If not, then neglect may very well be an issue.

Signs of neglect can include:

  • frequent absenteeism from school
  • begs or steals money or food
  • lacks needed medical or dental care, immunisations or glasses
  • lacks appropriate clothing, eg for weather conditions, shoes are too small, ill-fitted clothes
  • clothes are consistently dirty or ‘smelly’
  • teeth are dirty, hair quality is poor and contains infestations
  • hands are cold, red and swollen
  • loss of weight or being constantly underweight
  • the parent or adult caregiver has failed to protect a child from physical harm or danger

If you have concerns that a child is being neglected please call the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 01234 718700 or email

Local information

National information

View the NSPCC website on neglect 

Ofsted’s report In the child’s time: professional responses to neglect 

Graded Care Profile 2 (GCP2)

The original Graded Care Profile (GCP) was a tool designed in 1995 to provide an objective measure of the care of the children. The GCP model is primarily based on the qualitative measure of the commitment shown by parents or carers in meeting their children’s developmental needs.

It is tool that we will be using to assess, measure and support families where there are concerns regarding Neglect.

It is an assessment tool that will highlight the areas of strength and the areas that will require further, more specific targeted support.

Any professional who has had the training maybe involved in carrying out the GCP2 with a family and all professionals are welcome to contribute towards the completion of the GCP2.

Further information and resources