UK & World News

  • 6 February 2013, 3:26

Poverty Blamed For Increase In Child Neglect

Nine out of 10 teachers, police officers and social workers come into contact with children they suspect are being neglected - but 40% feel powerless to intervene, according to new research.

The report by Action for Children also reveals that members of the public who would like to see more support when reporting such concerns has almost doubled in three years to 44%.

The study found that a third of the public who had concerns about a child did not tell anyone - mainly because they did not think they had enough evidence - while 15% were worried of repercussions.

Some 14% of professionals have reported a rise in suspected child neglect over the past year and of these, nearly three-quarters believed a deterioration in parenting skills was a contributing factor to the increase.

Two-thirds believed greater poverty was to blame and more than half blamed family breakdowns.

The report is one of the most comprehensive reviews into child neglect; the second in an annual series by the University of Stirling. Six thousand members of the public, a range of professionals and 27 local authorities took part in the research.

Dame Clare Tickell, the charity's chief executive, said: "It is of grave concern that one in every 10 children could be suffering neglect.

"We know that early help has the potential to transform the lives of children and families, yet today's report tells us that the public aren't being given the know-how they need and professionals' best efforts are being hindered by stretched budgets and a lack of resources.

"With more and more families struggling, vulnerable children are falling through the cracks of a child protection system that is failing some of those who need it most - sometimes with tragic consequences."

Action for Children is calling on the Government to introduce a web-site with a post code function to enable the public to seek the most appropriate help at the earliest opportunity for children they are worried about.

The charity is also asking the Government to meet its commitment to putting measures in place to support professionals to make decisions whether and when to intervene.

Shadow minister for children and young people, Lisa Nandy said: "It's shocking that so many more children are facing neglect and ill-treatment than this time last year.

"Over the last 12 months we've seen a sharp rise in factors that put stress on families, like poverty and homelessness.

"At the same time the Government is cutting funding to local councils, piling more pressure on social workers who are already struggling with record numbers of children being taken into care.

"These figures may just be the tip of the iceberg. This report should act as a wake-up call."