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Neglect remains the most common form of child maltreatment in this country, and is the most common reason for a child being subject to child protection measures. Neglect is extremely damaging to children in the short and long term, affecting physical, cognitive and emotional development, behaviour and opportunities. Key to effective help for neglected children is that their plight is spotted early and that something is done to help them.


Chronic neglect impacts on a child’s development in the long term and can cause trauma reactions as children mature. NSPCC video ‘Brain Builders’ explains how adverse childhood experiences in the first years of a child’s life affects how their brains form. Toxic stress from abuse or neglect damages structures of a child’s developing brain and can put them at risk of health problems as well as developmental issues and addiction. It shows how nurturing ‘serve and return’ experiences will create positive development.


Further training about trauma informed practice for professionals can be found under Learning and Development.


Parental substance misuse and mental health


Children of Alcohol Dependent Parents Engagement (CAPE) is a project run by the Children’s Society upskilling professionals who are in contact with children affected by parental substance misuse.  They have tools, videos, best practice and publications to develop your understanding about the impact of substance misuse on parenting.


The Society for the Study of Addiction has quick reference guides for professionals about different drugs, what they look like and the effects.  


Mental health problems are frequently present in cases of child abuse or neglect. An analysis of 175 serious case reviews from 2011-14 found that 53% of cases featured parental mental health problems (Sidebotham, 2016). Mental health problems mean diagnosable mental health conditions, like depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and personality disorders. Mental health problems affecting mothers and fathers during the perinatal period, in pregnancy and after birth, can include anxiety, depression and postnatal psychotic disorders (Hogg, 2013).


This video made by Nottingham Council Safeguarding Children Board together with NHS Nottingham City CCG, helps professionals to rethink the early signs of child neglect with the use of language when children are recorded as ‘Did Not Attend’.  It prompts us to think about patterns of neglect and reaching out and seeking help for children who are having their needs neglected.