For the third day of Safeguarding Week, we turn our attention to child neglect.
While we don’t know the exact number of children in the UK who have experienced neglect, a NPSCC study estimated that 1 in 10 children in the UK has been neglected and that 1 in 5 children have experienced severe maltreatment.*
We read shocking statistics like this, but often we think “not in my town, village or street” and assume that these hideous crimes are being committed in urban, inner-city, deprived areas.
Unfortunately, our experience tells a different story and children are suffering closer than you think.
Last year North Yorkshire Police made 63 arrests in relation to child neglect offences and we currently have a number of ongoing, live investigations.
Neglect is the failure to meet a child’s basic needs – leaving a child hungry, dirty, without adequate clothing or shelter, leaving a child unsupervised for long periods of time or without medical attention if needed.
Neglect also leaves already vulnerable children open to other forms of abuse and exploitation and can lead on to other issues as the child moves into their teenage years, such as running away from the situation at home.
Neglect can cause significant long term harm and can lead to a child experiencing mental and physical issues well into adulthood. By experiencing neglect as a child, the effects can stay with the victim, leading to an inability to form and maintain healthy relationships with their own families and children and can lead to drug and alcohol dependency.
Speaking about these offences, Detective Inspector Shaun Page of the North Yorkshire Police Vulnerability Assessment Team said:
“Child neglect is sadly something that we do deal with on a regular basis in North Yorkshire. It is not a problem that is solely found in disadvantaged areas.
“Cases of child neglect are never straight forward and often we find other problems in the family unit, such as domestic abuse, drug abuse and alcoholism. So our response is very often a multi-agency response, where not only the child will require safeguarding and support, but potentially other members of the family too.”
“The nature of the crime means that the neglect is usually hidden behind closed doors. However, if members of the public are aware of some of the tell-tale signs and are able to spot them and make a report to police, it enables us reach out to the children and families who so desperately need our help.”
Signs of child neglect
Whilst not an exhaustive list, and one sign or symptom does not necessarily mean a child is being neglected – if you notice a child exhibiting persistent or multiple signs of the following – please dial 101 and pass the information on to the police.
Children who are being neglected may have poor appearance or personal hygiene:
• Be dirty and/or smelly
• Have unwashed clothes
• Inadequate clothing ie; no winter coat or suitable footwear
• Be hungry – turn up at school without having breakfast or with no lunch provision
• In infants and babies – have persistent and untreated nappy rash
They may also have health or development issues, such as;
• Untreated injuries or medical/dental issues
• Repeated accidents due to being left unsupervised
• Recurring illnesses or infections
• Ringworm or fleabites
• Be thin or have a swollen tummy
• Poor muscle tone
• Be failing to thrive ie: faltering weight or growth and not meeting development milestones such as having poor communication or language
They also may be exposed to housing or family issues
• Be living in an unsuitable home environment ie: pet faeces present or no heating
• Be left alone for long and frequent periods of time
If you have any suspicions that a child near you is being neglected, call North Yorkshire Police on 101 and pass on the information.
You can also report your concerns to the NSPCC via their helpline 0808 800 5000, which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or online at https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-you-can-do/report-abuse/
Safeguarding the vulnerable is everyone’s business, so please report your concerns and don’t let child neglect hide in your community.
*(source: Radford, L. et al. (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. London: NSPCC).
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