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Child Neglect: The scandal that never breaks

A child experiences neglect when the adults who look after them fail to meet their needs.

Neglect can take many forms. It could be a parent allowing their child to suffer serious harm on a one-off occasion or failing to care for them over a long period. It can be emotional as well as physical with children not receiving basic daily care, emotional warmth, stimulation or guidance and boundaries.

Neglected children can be left alone in the house or streets for a long time. They can lack proper health care, be ignored when distressed, or even when excited or happy.

Neglect has far reaching consequences affecting all aspects of a child’s development. It has negative and long-term effects on brain and other

physical development, influences behaviour, educational achievement and children’s emotional wellbeing.

Neglect can mean that children have trouble making and keeping relationships. It can have an impact on how they parent their own children. One study found that 80 per cent of neglected children have some form of attachment disorder.

Neglect can be life threatening and in some cases children die because of it. It was a factor in 60 per cent of all reviews in to the deaths and serious injuries of a child. It can affect children and young people of all ages and includes deaths related to malnutrition, medical neglect, preventable accidents and suicide among young people. It was a feature in over a quarter of child homicides and fatal physical assaults.

Neglect often occurs alongside other family problems including mental health issues, substance misuse or living with domestic violence.

For a child suffering from neglect, life can be horrific. Young people told us that they feel depressed, unloved and invisible.