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Stirling researchers identify key issues influencing child neglect in the UK

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A report published for Action for Children, by Professor Brigid Daniel and Cheryl Burgess, highlights the key factors influencing child neglect, which affects up to one child in 10 in the UK.

Neglecting the Issue outlines six main issues as key to understanding the complexities of child neglect. The report identifies the major gaps to be addressed in helping the 1.5 million children in the UK currently affected by neglect - and preventing further children and families from being affected.

The report states that poverty, alcohol and substance misuse, inability to access local family support services and mental health issues can dramatically increase child neglect in vulnerable families.

The report states that a clear, integrated approach is needed to further challenge and solve child neglect and recommends investigation of six areas as key to delivering that approach.

       Fathers' roles: services and advice should be more widely available to encourage and help fathers to better support their children.

       Targeting families: reviews of Action for Children’s Sure Start children’s centres show that 57% gained "highly positive" feedback and 32% were labelled as  "adequate". Many more of these services are needed.

       Public health and prevention: public awareness campaigns have been effective in areas of health and social care. If awareness programmes on child neglect were funded and supported, greater awareness could help reduce neglect and even prevent it from arising.

       Parents and carers' views: parents and carers need to be encouraged to seek help without fear of major repercussions. Professionals must be trained to communicate better with parents and carers to make them aware of the support available, before it is too late.

       Children's views: more must be done to identify ways in which children can be encouraged to ask for help directly. The current picture is unclear, with some young people wanting to approach adults, such as teachers or counsellors, for support but worrying about too much intrusion into their home lives.

       Understanding the scale of neglect: we need to be able to see a regular snapshot of the extent of neglect, and the collective response to it, in order to understand whether this is getting better or worse.  Action for Children will lead this initiative in the autumn, when itpublishes its first national annual review of child neglect, comprehensively outlining the issues, causes and proposals to help end neglect.

Dame Clare Tickell, Chief Executive of Action for Children says: “1.5 million neglected children in 2011 is unthinkable but that is the scale of the problem in the UK. Neglect is widespread and still goes unnoticed. We have clear issues to tackle. It is not complicated or difficult. We are all responsible for the problem and we just need to do it or we will see many more families struggling and children being ignored.”

Annie, from Scotland, is just one of the estimated 10% of children who suffer neglect. Now 18, Annie has been neglected by her drug addict parents: “I have three sisters and a brother, but I don’t see the youngest two much as they’ve both been in foster care for years.

“It was me who reported Mum to social work. I know it’s the best thing for them but I do feel sad about it. Because of our home life I don’t know them and they don’t know me. Our house was never really nice, always needing decorating and repairing. It was hard bringing friends home because of the state of the house and because of my mum and dad.

“I can remember getting a bike one Christmas which my dad had stolen from another family. I can even remember helping my mum to inject herself when I was about 15. I did it to calm her down and make her feel better.

“I feel embarrassed about my life. I haven’t felt as important as other people – I feel small and at the bottom of the pile. I pull out my hair and cut my arms with a light bulb if I feel stressed.”

Neglecting the issue: impact, causes and responses to child neglect in the UK : http://www.actionforchildren.org.uk/media/926937/neglecting_the_issue.pdf  

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