Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Safeguarding Children Partnership

What is Neglect?

What is Neglect?

Neglect is the most common form of Child Abuse. Sometimes it is obvious  - where a child is left hungry, dirty or without proper clothing; sometimes it is more difficult to identify, but we know that a lack of proper care has a long-lasting effect on physical and mental wellbeing.

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 they need, and sometimes it's down to problems such as mental health issues, drug and alcohol problems or poverty.

  • Physical neglect - where basic needs, such as food, clothing or shelter, are not met or a child is not properly supervised or kept safe.
  • Educational neglect – a lack of adequate stimulation, or a parent not making sure their child is given an education.
  • Emotional neglect – a lack of a nurturing and caring environment, or even ignoring, humiliating, intimidating or isolating children.
  • Medical neglect – a child not receiving appropriate health or dental care, or parents ignoring medical recommendations.

You can find out more about different signs of neglect here.


Remember - children have the right to be protected from neglect and bad treatment by their parents or anyone else who looks after them. (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child UNCRC)

What to do if you are worried?

For children who are neglected, this may be their normal experience and they may not understand that their quality of life is not as good as it should be. Make sure that children don’t feel they have done something wrong or shocking if they confide in you.

Housing and money worries can put a lot of stress on parents. This can stop them being able to provide the practical and emotional support that children need, which can lead to neglect. It may be that families can be helped with these issues and that in turn will enable them to provide the support that their children need.

If you feel that a child, you or a friend or neighbour needs extra help, please contact the Multi-agency Referral Unit (MARU) for Cornwall on 0300 123 1116 or if you are in the Isles of Scilly, ring 01720 424483. They will help you to understand what is the best way to respond to your concerns.
You could also get advice from the Childline website or call them on 0800 1111
Family Lives is another charity that offers a free and confidential helpline.

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