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Following on from child exploitation day we are focusing on spreading awareness of the life-long effects of child abuse. Child neglect is one of the most common forms of child mistreatment. It can affect a child’s physical and mental well-being and can lead to long term consequences. Many UK charities such as the NSPCC and Childline are attempting to battle against child neglect across the country. Any child can suffer neglect, but some children and young people are at higher risk than others such as children who are born prematurely, have a disability, have complex health needs, are in care and are seeking asylum. Other problems and life circumstances can make it harder for parents and carers to meet their child’s needs. When one or more of these issues occur, it can increase a child’s risk of neglect.

A sad reality of neglect is that it can significantly alter childhood. Children who have experienced neglect may suffer from short term and long-term effects. The NSPCC has provided examples which include brain development, risk taking (such as running away from home), drug and alcohol use, breaking the law, dangerous relationships, difficulty with relationships later in life and mental health problems including depression.

Broadly speaking there are 4 types of neglect:

Physical neglect - A child’s basic needs such as food, clothing or shelter, are not met or they aren’t properly supervised or kept safe.

Educational neglect - A parent doesn’t ensure their child is given an education.

Emotional neglect - A child doesn’t get the nurture and stimulation they need. This could be through ignoring, humiliating, intimidating or isolating them.

Medical neglect - A child isn’t given proper health care. This includes dental care and refusing or ignoring medical recommendations.

Neglect can be really difficult to spot. Having one of the signs doesn’t necessarily mean a child is being neglected. However if a child displays multiple signs that last for a while, it could be an indication of a serious problem. NSPCC has the provided the following signs to look out for to spot child neglect:

  • Poor appearance and hygiene: being dirty or smelly, being hungry or not given money for food, having unwashed clothes, having the wrong clothing such as no warm clothes in the winter and having frequent and untreated nappy rash in infants.
  • Health and development problems: anemia, medical or dental issues, missed medical appointments, not given the correct medication, poor language or social skills, regular illness/infections, repeated accidental injuries often caused by lack of supervision, skin issues such as sores/rashes/flea bites/scabies/ringworm, thin or swollen tummy, tiredness, untreated injuries and weight or growth issues.
  • Housing and family issues: living in an unsuitable home environment, such as having no heating, being left alone for a long time and taking on the role of carer for other family members.
  • Change in behaviour: becoming clingy/aggressive/withdrawn/anxious/depressed, changes in eating habits, missing school, showing signs of self-harm, using drugs/alcohol and finding it hard to concentrate/take part in activities.

A child who is experiencing neglect may not even realise what is happening is wrong, they may even blame themselves. It is important to be supportive if a child talks about neglect and listen to their experience. It is essential that steps are taken by local authorities and schools to help those suffering from neglect and provide the assistance and support they need.

If you or a family member have suffered abuse or neglect, our experience Abuse team headed by Natalie Marrison are here to help. For a confidential discussion, please contact the Ramsdens Abuse team on 0113 877 1834 or send them an email.