Borough Insight

How to spot the signs of child neglect

According to the NSPCC, 1 in 10 children in the UK have experienced neglect.Neglect Matters - please tell us if you suspect that a child is being neglected in any

Surrey Safeguarding Children Partnership and the NSPCC are working in partnership with the whole Surrey community to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of child neglect.

The signs of neglect

The signs of neglect are often hard to spot, as neglect can appear in many different ways. There are six types of neglect which are described as:

  1. Medical neglect

A child’s health needs are not met, or the child is not provided with appropriate medical treatment when needed as a result of illness or accident.

  1. Nutritional neglect

A child is given insufficient calories to meet their physical / developmental needs; this is sometimes associated with ‘failure to thrive’, though failure to thrive can occur for reasons other than neglect. A child may be given food of insufficient nutritional value (e.g. crisps, biscuits and sugary snacks in place of balanced meals); childhood obesity as a result of an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise has more recently been considered a form of neglect, given its serious long-term consequences.

  1. Emotional neglect

This involves a carer being unresponsive to a child’s basic emotional needs, including failing to interact or provide affection, and failing to develop a child’s self-esteem and sense of identity.

  1. Educational neglect

A child does not receive appropriate learning experiences; they may be unstimulated, denied appropriate experiences to enhance their development and / or experience a lack of interest in their achievements. This may also include carers failing to comply with state requirements regarding school attendance and failing to respond to any special educational needs.

  1. Physical neglect

A child has inadequate or inappropriate clothing (e.g. for the weather conditions), they experience poor levels of hygiene and cleanliness in their living conditions, or experience poor physical care despite the availability of sufficient resources. A child may also be abandoned or excluded from home.

  1. Neglect through lack of supervision and guidance

A child may be exposed to hazards and risks, parents or caregivers are inattentive to avoidable dangers, the child is left with inappropriate caregivers, and/ or experiences a lack of appropriate supervision and guidance. It can include failing to provide appropriate boundaries for young people about behaviours such as under-age sex and alcohol use.

We can all do our part to keep children safe from neglect by making ourselves and our colleagues aware of the signs of neglect.

What to do if you think a child is suffering from neglect

If you have concerns about a child in Surrey who could be suffering from any of these types of neglect and you want to report in confidence, call Surrey's Children's Single Point of Access on 0300 470 9100, email: or call 999 in an emergency.

To learn more about neglect, visit the NSPCC's website.


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