Neglect - information for professionals
There are two statutory definitions of neglect: one for criminal and one for civil purposes.
Neglect is a criminal offence under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 where it is defined as:
"Failure to provide adequate food, clothing, medical aid or lodging for [a child], or if, having been unable otherwise to provide such food, clothing, medical aid or lodging, he has failed to take steps to procure it to be provided"
The civil definition of neglect which is used in child and family law is set out in the Children Act 1989 as part of the test of 'significant harm' to a child. This is expanded upon in Working Together 2015 statutory guidance which 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 and 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 care-givers); or ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.
"It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child's basic emotional needs.
The DSCB provides general and specialist courses to help build staff skills, knowledge, value and confidence.
View our training section which incorporates the latest DSCB training programme.
The DSCB also promotes the use of assessment processes and tools; these should be used in all situations where there are emerging concerns around neglect:
- pre-birth assessment protocol
- early help assessment
- starting point request for support
- social care single assessment
- practice matters - chronologies
- joint neglect and graded care profile practice guidance and assessment tool template
- DASH risk assessment in domestic violence situations.
Medical neglect involves carers minimising or ignoring children's illness or health (including oral health) needs and failing to seek medical attention or administrating medication or treatments. This also includes expectant mothers who fail to prepare appropriately for the baby's birth, fail to seek ante-natal care and/or engage in behaviours that place the baby at risk - for example drug or alcohol misuse.
In response to a local Serious Case Review, Nottingham City Council have produced a video briefing on medical neglect called 'Rethinking did not attend'.