Child protection system failing up to 1.5 million UK children, children's charity warns

February 7, 2013
Child protection system failing up to 1.5 million UK children, children’s charity warns

Nine out of ten teachers, police officers and social workers are regularly coming into contact with children they suspect are suffering from neglect yet as many as 40 per cent feel powerless to intervene, according to a major report by the University of Stirling for children's charity Action for Children.

Published today (6 February), The State of Child Neglect in the UK reveals that members of the public calling for more support to report rising concerns has almost doubled in the past three years - with studies suggesting up to 10 per cent of UK (almost 1.5 million) face the daily reality of neglect.

The study was led by Brigid Daniel, Professor of at the University of Stirling and academic advisor to Scotland's centre for child protection WithScotland.

Professor Daniel said: "Professionals are offering neglected children and their families considerable levels of support. However, there is always more that can be done to offer help earlier to the many children who tend to slip under the radar. We need greater interdisciplinary working to tackle the high levels of children experiencing neglect in the UK. For example in where there are particularly high levels of parental substance abuse, the government's "Getting it Right for Every Child" initiative offers a real opportunity to help and support to children and their families at an early stage."

Today's report is the most comprehensive current review into child neglect, the second in an annual series by the University of Stirling for Action for Children. Almost 6,000 people including the general public, a range of professionals and 27 took part in the research through interviews, polls and focus groups.

Dame Clare Tickell, for Action for Children, said:

"It is of grave concern that one in every ten children could be suffering neglect. We know that early help has the potential to transform the lives of children and families, yet today's report tells us that the public aren't being given the know-how they need and professionals' best efforts are being hindered by stretched budgets and a lack of resources. With more and more families struggling, vulnerable children are falling through the cracks of a child protection system that is failing some of those who need it most – sometimes with tragic consequences."

Other key findings from The State of Child Neglect in the UK include:

  • 14 per cent of professionals reported a rise in suspected child neglect over the past 12 months
  • Of these, many believe deterioration in parenting skills (70 per cent), greater poverty (66 per cent) and more family breakdowns (55 per cent) are contributing factors to the increase in neglect
  • Half of professionals feel there are barriers which make it difficult to intervene in suspected cases of neglect, in particular because of a lack of available services and resources like time and staffing
  • A third of the general public who had concerns about a child did not tell anyone, mainly because they did not think they had enough evidence or were uncertain it was neglect

Neglect is a factor in 60 per cent of child deaths or serious injuries, investigated by Serious Case Reviews. Research shows it is vital to provide vulnerable families with support at an early stage so that they can change their behaviour and prevent neglect. Yet Government commitment to early help services is inconsistently translated into practice, with only piecemeal delivery in some local areas.

The charity's report found that just 12 per cent of staff in early help services, such as health visitors and teaching assistants, are able to respond directly if they suspect a child is being neglected and many frontline professionals (29 per cent) believe their ability to intervene will become even more difficult as spending cuts continue.

Co-Chair of The College of Social Work, Professor Corinne May-Chahal, said:

"This report reaffirms the need for adequately funded universal early help services to support parents in crisis who may be struggling to care for their children. Targeted early help in suspected cases of can enable parents to resolve problems at an early stage, without the need for further intervention, providing outcomes which are clearly in the best interests of children. However The College is increasingly concerned that a reduction in funding for preventative services will put increasing pressure on social workers' ability to source the support that many families need."

In response to public demand and the report's findings, Action for Children is calling on the UK Government to:

  • Introduce a web-portal with a postcode function to enable the public to seek the most appropriate help, at the earliest opportunity, for children they are worried about in their local area
  • Meet its commitment to early help and put measures in place that support professionals to make timely decisions, meaning neglected children receive effective support across all levels of need from the identification of suspected cases to chronic neglect

Explore further: Child abuse in U.S. declines for 5th straight year

Related Stories

Child abuse in U.S. declines for 5th straight year

December 13, 2012
(HealthDay)—The number of child abuse and neglect cases reported in the United States in 2011 fell for the fifth consecutive year, according to a new federal government report.

Charity echoes Ofsted concerns on safeguarding disabled children

August 24, 2012
A report that warns that disabled children in England need better protection against neglect or abuse has been welcomed by a national charity. 

Recommended for you

Sugar not so sweet for mental health

July 27, 2017
Sugar may be bad not only for your teeth and your waistline, but also your mental health, claimed a study Thursday that was met with scepticism by other experts.

Could insufficient sleep be adding centimeters to your waistline?

July 27, 2017
Adults in the UK who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic health, according to a new study.

Vitamin E-deficient embryos are cognitively impaired even after diet improves

July 27, 2017
Zebrafish deficient in vitamin E produce offspring beset by behavioral impairment and metabolic problems, new research at Oregon State University shows.

The role of dosage in assessing risk of hormone therapy for menopause

July 27, 2017
When it comes to assessing the risk of estrogen therapy for menopause, how the therapy is delivered—taking a pill versus wearing a patch on one's skin—doesn't affect risk or benefit, researchers at UCLA and elsewhere ...

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.