Neglect is:

The persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and / or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. Neglect may occur during pregnancy. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:

  • provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment);
  • protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger;
  • ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care-givers); or
  • ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.

It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.
Working Together 2015

Six classifications of neglect (Horwath 2007):


The 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.


The 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. The 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.


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. Some authors distinguish it from emotional abuse by the intention of the parent.


The 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.


The 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. The child may also be abandoned or excluded from home.

Lack of supervision and guidance

The 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.

Responding to Neglect

If you think neglect is occurring in a family, household or for an individual child or young person you must consider your next course of action.

Good practice

  • Record concerns, conversations and interaction
  • Use a chronology
  • Assess and review
  • Discuss concerns with colleagues and partner agencies
  • Discuss concerns with the child, parent / carer and family members as appropriate
  • Think Family, Work Family

Early help 

To register early help activity:

  • If you have access to Mosaic and are undertaking activity yourself, please record this directly onto Mosaic.
  • If you do not have access to Mosaic, please contact the Families First team to register the activity by calling 0113 3781840.
  • Should you need any further assistance regarding early help activity, please contact your local Early Help Hub (see above).

Early help forms:

Early Help Assessment - This form will help you to capture your assessment of the current needs of a child/young person and their family. It should be completed in partnership with the child/young person and their parents/carers. The assessment is used to agree next steps in order to access appropriate early help support and co-ordinate services. This is primarily intended to be used for a multi-agency assessment, however could also be used for a single agency assessment. This should be kept on the child/young person’s file by the lead professional and also uploaded to MOSAIC if you have access.

Early Help My Plan - This form will help you to develop an early help plan in conjunction with the child/young person and their family. This should be kept on the child/young person’s file by the lead professional and also uploaded to MOSAIC if you have access.

Early Help Request Form - This form is used to request early help support through an Early Help Hub or cluster, for a child/young person, or to refer a child or young person to an early help support service; Restorative Early Support, Multi-Systemic Therapy, Signpost or Family Together Leeds. On completion the form should be submitted to the appropriate service (see here for contact details).

All three forms are available by emailing

See our Early Help pages for more information.

Significant harm

Immediate Risk of harm

  • Phone the police on 999 

Neglect Strategy 2017-2022

Launched in July 2017 the 5 year Neglect Strategy links together objectives in order to improve our ability to quantify the extent of neglect in Leeds, and ensuring that all agencies and practitioners are better able to recognise and respond to neglect. A copy of the Neglect Strategy is available on request.

Practitioner's Tool Kit

The Practitioner’s Tool Kit is a resource for practitioners when working with children and families. The Tools support practitioners in their day to day work, to identify and understand what is going on within a family.

Poverty, child abuse and neglect: Interrogating a 'neglected' relationship

Poverty, child abuse and neglect: Interrogating a 'neglected' relationship (video)
Your chance to see Brid Featherstone, Professor of Social Work at the University of Huddersfield delivering a presentation to Leeds practitioners. The presentation focuses on the research literature and the findings of the Child Welfare Inequalities Project, to look at how poverty impacts upon neglect and identifies the barriers to practitioners practising in a 'poverty aware' manner. It explored how more 'poverty aware' policies and practices might be developed

Working with Child Neglect During the COVID 19 Pandemic

Working with cases of child neglect in these difficult times is no mean challenge. The situation is exacerbated by the lack of research and practice experience regarding family behaviour during a period of lockdown. To fill this vacuum, Jan Horwath has drawn on research into child neglect (Horwath, 2007; 2013; 2019) and makes suggestions as to how neglectful parents and children may respond to lockdown. This analysis is designed to provide practitioners with some guidance that may prove useful in understanding parental behaviour and establishing the needs of the most vulnerable children experiencing neglect.

A series of 4 episodes exploring the child’s experiences of neglect during lockdown and how we can respond presented by Emeritus Professor Jan Howarth

  • Episode 1 - Understanding the Lived Experience of Neglected Children and Young People During Lockdown: The First Step to Effective Intervention
  • Episode 2 - Living with Disorganised Neglect During Lockdown: Implications for Practice During the ‘New Normal’.
  • Episode 3 - Living with Emotional Neglect During Lockdown: Implications for Practice During the ‘New Normal’.
  • Episode 4 - Living with Depressed, Passive and Physical Neglect During Lockdown: Implications for Practice During the ‘New Normal’

Neglect is the most common type of abuse experienced by children and young people in England. Nationally in 2014, figures showed that 48,300 children were subject to a Child Protection Plan and 43% had the category of neglect.

Nearly 5,000 referrals were recorded as having a primary factor of ‘neglect’, representing about 13% of the total referrals. 1 in 6 social care assessments were due to neglect, reflecting the national picture. Of those children subject to a Child Protection Plan, 29% had an identified primary need of neglect. This is lower than the national figure (46%) (the national Child in Need (CIN) Census 2015/16). Nearly 4% of children that were assessed subsequently became looked after. Cases of neglect were the single largest group entering care.

Further information:

Team Briefings

Team briefings have been developed to encourage discussions and reflection on a variety of safeguarding subjects within teams.

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