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23 January 2012
Over half (51%) of social workers, and a third of police officers (36%) report feeling 'powerless' to intervene in suspected cases of child neglect, according to a landmark report out today (23 January 2011) by children's charity, Action for Children. The charity has found a worrying picture of neglected children getting trapped in, rather than caught by, the safety net in place to protect them, as teachers, health workers and nursery staff are increasingly aware of child neglect, yet unsure as to what to do.
The polls were conducted as part of a comprehensive review into child neglect, the first of a new annual series, by the University of Stirling, for Action for Children. Over 4000 people, including the general public, a range of professionals, and 47 local authorities, took part in the research through polling and focus groups.
Social workers questioned felt that the point at which they could intervene in cases of child neglect was too high (42%) and for those children who did meet the level at which they could intervene, many cited a lack of resources (52%) or support services to refer families to (43%) as barriers to acting. The percentage of social workers who say they feel powerless to intervene in cases of child neglect has gone up from a third since 2009. It comes as over half (52%) of those surveyed said they have been worried about the welfare or safety of a child they know or who is living in their area.
As well as social workers and police officers, professionals including primary school teachers and health visitors have shared with Action for Children their concerns over making referrals, with teachers reporting sleepless nights wondering what they should do in cases of suspected child neglect.
Studies suggest that up to 10% of all children in the UK have experienced neglect.
Further findings from Action for Children's Review of Child Neglect 2011, include;
Action for Children will be monitoring the scale and impact of UK child neglect and society's response to the issue on an ongoing basis, reporting back annually on progress made and making key recommendations to government.
Dame Clare Tickell, Chief Executive of Action for Children, said, “Neglect corrodes childhoods, robbing the most vulnerable children of hope, happiness and life chances. All our findings point to the stark reality that neglected children and their parents are being identified, but neither the professionals nor the public feel empowered to help or intervene, particularly at the early stages.
“When it comes to child neglect the reality is, we are only tackling the tip of the iceberg, and there are many thousands out there in desperate need. We are currently missing critical opportunities to help, and putting valued professionals in an impossible position.”
Professor Corinne May-Chahal, Co-Chair of The College of Social Work and Professor of Applied Science, Lancaster University UK commented, “Unlike physical and sexual abuse, where the signs can often be very obvious, identifying neglect is more complex creating a barrier between getting the child and family the help they desperately need.
“The point at which social workers can intervene in cases of neglect is too high. This high threshold allows the challenges families face to deteriorate to the point where they need urgent help.
“Even when a child has been identified as being neglected, social workers struggle to get them the support they need due to a lack of time or resources.
“The system, in its current state, falls short in providing the safety and security neglected children need. It is important that social workers are given a stronger role in early intervention and that services are appropriately organised to achieve this aim.”
Action for Children is calling for;