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Child abuse and neglect

NICE guideline

This guideline provides recommendations based on evidence on how to recognise and respond to child abuse and neglect. It offers a robust and rigorous review of the literature, in addition to lessons from practice, and provides an overview of the research into best practice in child protection. As a result it provides a reliable guide to what works and what is cost effective, as indicated by the best available evidence. It offers practitioners and commissioners a clear guide to the interventions and approaches that are most appropriate, and represent best value for money.

The Department for Education's Working together to safeguard children sets out the statutory responsibilities. This guideline will help practitioners to fulfil those responsibilities by providing recommendations for practice which:

Provide more detail about how to discharge duties set out in existing guidance.

Emphasise areas of practice that have been highlighted by research evidence as:

  • being of particular importance, or
  • not always working well in current practice.

Why do we need this guideline?

Cruelty to children and young people is a criminal offence, and child abuse and neglect can haveserious adverse health and social consequences for children and young people. These include:

  • effects on growth and physical development (The impact of abuse and neglect on the health
  • and mental health of children and young people NSPCC)
  • impaired language development and behaviour by age 4
  • impaired ability to socialise, play and learn (Developing an effective response to neglect and
  • emotional harm to children NSPCC)
  • increased likelihood of being involved in antisocial behaviour (Child abuse and neglect in theUK today NSPCC)
  • increased likelihood of suicidal thoughts and attempts during adolescence.

These negative consequences can persist into adulthood. Adult survivors of childhood abuse are more likely to misuse substances and to experience mental health problems and physical ill health. Recognising and responding to child abuse and neglect, or its early signs, is complex. Key challenges practitioners face may include:

  • Knowing 'when to be worried' that a child or young person is being abused or neglected, and how serious a cause for concern different indicators may be.
  • Assessing levels of risk and need in relation to child abuse and neglect.
  • Knowing what early help interventions are effective when there are early signs of child abuse and neglect.
  • Knowing what interventions are effective in helping children and young people to recover following child abuse and neglect, and to support families in which there has been child abuse and neglect.

This guideline makes evidence-based recommendations aiming to support these areas of practice.