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Speaking out about neglect

A neglected child.
A neglected child.

Every child and young person has the right to be looked after properly, and it is important they know this.

Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child’s basic needs and can take on different forms.

It may be that a child or young person’s physical needs are not being met, such as having clean clothes to wear and enough food to eat or being provided with medical care.

Or it could be that a child is being emotionally neglected, that they are not being shown affection or that significant events or changes in their lives are going unnoticed.

Children and teenagers may feel embarrassed or worried that if they speak out about it someone will get into trouble.

But there are many reasons for neglect. A family may be doing their best but not have enough money. It may be that a parent or carer has a problem with drugs or alcohol or has physical or mental health issues.

Sometimes parents may not even realise they are neglecting their children.

One woman who experienced neglect as a child, told the NSPCC: “My parents both used drugs and when I was growing up there was no one there to do the basic things that a child needs, like cooking meals.

“Mum wouldn’t even notice whether I had or hadn’t gone to school as she was always upstairs smashed out of her face.”

Speaking out will allow professionals to look to find the right help and support for the young person and their family, so any such issues can be addressed.

It can be difficult to work out if someone is experiencing neglect, even when that person is yourself.

Signs of neglect can include a child regularly having a dirty appearance, them arriving at school with no packed lunch or money and their parents not knowing their whereabouts.

Even if a young person is unsure whether it is neglect, the best thing for them to do is to speak to a trusted adult about it.

They can also contact Childline anonymously.

If a young person doesn’t feel comfortable speaking to someone on the phone, there are different ways to get in touch with us. Our counsellors respond to emails and also engage in one-to-one chats.

Children and young people with any worries can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or www.childline.org.uk while adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC’s free and confidential helpline on 0808 800 5000.