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Identifying and Responding to child neglect in schools: messages for inter-agency safeguarding practice

Part of the BASW Success in Social Work Webinar Series

Child neglect is the most common reason for a child to be placed on a child protection plan in England and the second most common reason in Wales. Because neglect is often chronic, rather than based on a specific incident, it can be difficult to identify whether the care a child is receiving is poor enough to be labelled neglect. This makes it more challenging to provide comprehensive and timely help, that will improve the child’s situation sufficiently.

Schools are vital partners in children’s safeguarding and protection practice. Their role is essential in supporting a timely and appropriate response to concerns about a child. They are able to observe children five days a week, monitor interactions with family members and peers in a range of settings, and across an extended period of the child’s development. They often possess valuable knowledge about wider family history and functioning, and key issues within the community.

Despite this, inter-agency working remains a significant challenge when responding to the complexity of child neglect. This session shares the findings of a research study funded by Welsh Government through Health and Social Care Wales which investigated how school staff identify and respond to child neglect in their roles. It brings new knowledge and understanding about the ways in which school staff currently support children and explores some of the barriers to identifying neglect at an early point. The session will focus upon the specific challenges experienced by schools, both within the school, and in the inter-agency relationship with Children’s Services. It will offer a number of messages for good practice to support practitioners in both settings to develop their interprofessional collaboration and communication within their networks when responding to child neglect.

Victoria Sharley is a registered Social Worker with a background in child protection and safeguarding practice including early help, referral and assessment, child protection, domestic violence and youth offending. Victoria completed her PhD at Cardiff University in the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE). Now a Lecturer in Social Work with Children and Families at the University of Bristol, Victoria continues her research in the topics of child neglect and inter-agency practice and contributes to the learning and development of students on the qualifying and post-qualifying social work programmes.

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