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There are many factors that influence and shape the development of a child. Some are within the child, such as genetic factors and others are from external sources such as physical, psychological and family influences, as well as the cultural and community aspects.

Neglect can be difficult to identify.  Every child deserves to be loved, cared for and protected.  In Thurrock, neglect is the largest cohort for children on a Child Protection Plan (CPP).  64% of referrals made the Thurrock Childrens Social Care in March 2023, were for issues of neglect.  As a Partnership, we need to spot and tackle neglect before it becomes significant and reaches threshold for intervention.

The impact of neglect will vary according to type, severity and length of exposure, making it difficult for those working with children and families to manage.  Professional uncertainty, differences of opinion or undue optimism regarding levels of need and the criteria for significant harm can lead to long term exposure which substantially increase the risk to children.

What is Neglect?

Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child's basic needs and the most common form of child abuse.  A child might be left hungry or dirty, or without proper clothing, shelter, supervision or health care.  This can put children and young people in danger and can also have long term effects on their physical and mental wellbeing.

There are four types of neglect

  • Physical neglect - a child's basic needs, such as food, clothing or shelter, are not met or they are not properly supervised or kept safe.
  • Education neglect - a parent does not ensure their children is given an education.
  • Emotional neglect - a child does not get the nurture and stimulation they need.  This could be through ignoring, humiliating, intimidating or isolating them.
  • Medical neglect - a child is not given proper health care.  This includes dental care and refusing or ignoring medical recommendations.

Neglect remains one of the Thurrock Safeguarding Children’s Partnership (LSCP) key priorities. The Partnership has a Neglect Strategy which is driven and monitored by the Neglect Group.

This strategy has been developed with multi-agency partners to set out Thurrock’ s approach to child neglect:

Thurrock LSCP Neglect Strategy

This strategy should be viewed alongside the following key strategies, policies and procedures and government guidance in relation to neglect:


Working Together to Safeguard Children describes neglect as:

The persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child's health or development.  Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse.  Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:

  • Provide adequate food, clothing or shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment)
  • Protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger
  • Ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate caregivers)
  • Ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment

It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child's basic emotional needs.

The Southend, Essex and Thurrock (SET) Procedures say:


Neglect involves the persistent failure to meet a child or young person’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child or young person’s health and development:


This may involve failure to provide a child or young person with adequate food, shelter or clothing, failure to protect them from physical harm or danger or failure to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of a child’s basic emotional needs. This includes children or young people being present - with or without their parents, at venues unsuitable for their age e.g. venues with an ‘adult only’ activities such as:

  • Events of a sexual nature
  • Where there are convictions of current members of staff for serving alcohol to minors
  • Premises where gambling is the main activity, and/or
  • Premises where the supply of alcohol is the main activity
29.2.12 Children need to be protected even when it appears that they are not aware that the physical abuse, sexual activity they are involved in or witness, or the neglect they experience, is harmful to them

Neglect happens when parents or carers can’t or won’t meet a child’s needs. Sometimes this is because they don’t have the skills or support needed, and sometimes it’s due to other concerns such as complex mental health issues, drug and alcohol dependency or poverty.

What do professionals need to do?

Although you may be worried about a child, it’s not always easy for professionals to identify neglect. There’s often no single sign or incident that a child or family need help. It is more likely that there will be a number of concerns over a period of time that, considered together, demonstrate the child is at risk. If you think a child may be experiencing neglect, don’t wait:

Gather all relevant information about the child, including the parenting capacity and family and environmental factors in order to form a professional judgment on strengths, risks and harmful factors.

Regularly review progress using the Neglect Toolkit and update the multi-agency plan accordingly.

Professional judgement has to be exercised in determining the harm or potential harm caused to a child by neglect but you should always consult with your agency safeguarding lead and refer to the Thurrock Pathway to Service and Threshold for Intervention Guide which will help you determine what sort of professional intervention will best meet the needs of the child and family.


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