Be Curious. Act against Child Neglect.


Working in partnership: Dorset County Council, Bournemouth Borough Council, Borough of Poole, Dorset HealthCare, Dorset Police and the Dorset and Bournemouth & Poole Local Safeguarding Children Boards.


What is Neglect?

According to the NSPCC neglect is the most common form of child abuse, with one in ten children experiencing neglect in the UK. It is the most common reason for taking child protection action.

Neglect means not meeting a child’s basic needs. A child may be neglected if they are:

  • Left hungry, dirty or poorly clothed
  • Living in an unsafe home, such as around violence, alcohol or drugs
  • Not getting love, care or attention
  • Not getting education, health or dental care

Neglect often happens over a period of time, but can also be a one-off event. Incidents often don’t meet social care or criminal thresholds as it is the cumulative effect that is most impactful.

A child who is neglected will often suffer from other forms of abuse as well. Neglect is dangerous and can cause serious, long-term damage or even death.


 Forms of Neglect

  • Physical Neglect; failing to provide for a child’s basic needs such as food, clothing or shelter. Failing to adequately supervise a child or provide for their safety.
  • Emotional Neglect; the omission of love and failing to nurture a child. Emotional neglect can overlap with emotional abuse but is a different form of maltreatment.
  • Educational Neglect; failing to ensure a child receives an education.
  • Medical Neglect; failing to provide appropriate health care, including dental care and refusal of care or ignoring medial requirements.


Signs of Neglect

  • Children who are living in a home that is undisputedly dirty or unsafe
  • Children who are left hungry or dirty
  • Children who are left without adequate clothing, e.g. not having a winter coat
  • Children who are living in dangerous conditions, e.g. around drugs, alcohol or violence
  • Children who are often angry, aggressive or self-harm
  • Children who fail to receive basic healthcare
  • Parents who fail to seek medical treatment when their children are ill or injured.


You may notice a child who is neglected because they:

  • become withdrawn
  • suddenly behave differently
  • are anxious, clingy and/or obsessive
  • become depressed and/or aggressive
  • take risks such as breaking the law, running away from home, getting involved in dangerous relationships which could put them at risk of sexual exploitation
  • have problems sleeping, nightmares
  • have a change in eating habits or suffer from eating disorders
  • wet the bed
  • soil their clothes
  • miss school
  • abuse drugs, alcohol
  • self-harm, have thoughts about suicide.


The Effects of Neglect

  • children who have been neglected may experience short-term and long-term effects that last throughout their life.
  • Not only will it make a child’s life miserable but it affects all aspects of their development and future relationships. It can be anything from affecting early brain development, language delay, physical injuries from accidents, low self-esteem, poor school attendance, to; self-harm and suicide attempts.
  • In the worst cases, children can die from malnutrition or being denied the care they need and in some cases it can cause permanent disabilities.
  • Children who don’t get the love and care they need from their parents may find it difficult to maintain healthy relationships with other people later in life, including their own children.
  • Children who have been neglected are also more likely to experience mental health problems including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.


Reporting Concerns

Be Curious. Act against child neglect. You may notice signs of neglect which could be the missing information to protect a child from harm. Worried about a child? Tell someone…

Talk to someone who works with them, such as their teacher, support worker, a youth worker or social worker

Children’s social care on 01202 458101 (Bournemouth); 01202 735046 (Poole); 01202 228866 (Dorset)

NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000

The police on 101. If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call 999.

Reporting concerns doesn’t mean that a child will be taken into care. Children’s Services are there to help families to manage any problems they are having.

For more information about services specific to the Bournemouth and Poole area please visit the website of the Bournemouth and Poole LSCB


Useful Resources

Please click, print and share the following resources for your setting in order to help the public recognise the signs of neglect and know what to do about reporting them.

Child Neglect Poster 1    Child Neglect Poster 2

Child Neglect Poster    Child Neglect Poster 4

For a more detailed information sheet, please download the Be Curious. Act Against Child Neglect Newsletter

For general information about safeguarding including who to contact if you have concerns please take a look at our Safeguarding Leaflet


The following are documents that professionals working with families may use:

Pan-Dorset Neglect Strategy 2016-2019

Dorset Threshold Tool


Information for children and young people

Nothing makes it okay for someone to hurt you and abuse is never your fault. If you’re not getting the important things you need at home, you could be being neglected.

Are you a child or young person being neglected or do you think one of your friends is being neglected at home? Talk to someone you trust such as a teacher or a friend’s parent and tell them what is happening.

If you don’t want to talk to someone you know you can contact Childline for support and advice on 0800 11 11 or visit their website


Professionals Toolkit

Multi Agency Neglect Assessment Toolkit

It is vital that children and young people receive the right service at the right time and this is supported by the Working Together 2015. In order for this to happen, all professionals who have contact with children, young people and families have a duty of care to identify issues at the earliest opportunity and assess what intervention is required. Assessment should be a dynamic process that identifies, analyses and responds to the changing nature and level of need and/or risk faced by a child. A good assessment will enable practitioners to intervene at the right time with the right level of support and to monitor and record the impact of any services delivered to the child and family.

Continuous assessment is crucial in ensuring that the help and support being delivered is having the intended impact. This multi-agency neglect assessment toolkit has been developed to support practitioners to undertake effective assessments that enable them to accurately identify appropriate cases in need of early help or onward referral to Children’s Social Care. The tools included should also be used to review the effectiveness of the support plans that are in place and the outcomes for the child/ren. Using the assessments early in intervention will hopefully support positive outcomes for children, meaning onward referral may not be required. However, should a case need referral, professionals will be expected to evidence why a threshold has been met despite appropriate intervention. The assessments included in the toolkit will provide a record of evidence for this purpose. Completion of the relevant assessments and screening tools is therefore an important part of any onward referral

Who should use the toolkit? These tools are available for any services, schools or organisations who work with children and families in Dorset.  All professionals need to be familiar with the tools provided and know when and how to use them. Managers should facilitate practitioner’s attendance at relevant training events to support the use of these tools and seek assurance in supervision that they are completed where appropriate.

Why is it needed? Learning from Serious Case Review Findings, Local Practice Reviews and Thematic Inspections frequently highlight missed opportunities as a consequence of poor quality assessments and lack of early intervention.

The 2015 Working Together guidance for England lists some of the following as features of a high quality assessment:

  • they are child-centred and informed by the views of the child
  • decisions are made in the best interests of the child
  • they are rooted in child development and informed by evidence
  • they build on strengths as well as identifying difficulties
  • they ensure equality of opportunity and a respect for diversity including family structures, culture, religion and ethnic origin

These principles should be applied when completing any of the assessments within this toolkit.

Wishes and feelings of the child It is important when completing any assessments that the wishes and feelings of the child are listened to throughout. Professionals need to ensure the voice of the child runs through everything we do. There are many examples of documents to support embedding this practice.  Two examples are included in this toolkit. The child’s lived experience is of paramount importance in testing out whether the apparent outcomes of interventions are having the desired impact for the child/ren. Seeking the views of the child will ensure that there is not over reliance on parental accounts which can therefore minimise the risk of disguised compliance.

Which tools are included?

DSCB Graded Care Profile Tool

DSCB Graded Care Profile Guidance

DSCB Graded Care Profile Leaflet

Be Professionally Curious Guide
Guide to recognising Neglect
Assessment Framework Triangle
LSCB Chronology Template
Home Conditions Assessment
Parenting Daily Hassles Scale
Strengths and difficulties questionnaire
Clutter image rating tool
Hoarding Assessment Tool – Screening Questions
Hoarding Assessment Tool – Threshold
Hoarding Assessment Tool – Level of Risk
My Views Young Children
Three Houses
Child Planning Scaling Tool

Resilience Matrix

Safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility