New research commissioned by the NSPCC shows that of children known to the authorities as being at risk, who died or were seriously injured, most (59 per cent) had been on a child protection plan for neglect at some point in their lives - more than for all other types of child protection plan combined (41 per cent).
The research was conducted by the University of East Anglia, and involved an analysis of 645 serious case reviews carried out in England between 2005 and 2011 to understand what part neglect played in them. Of these, 175 involved children who were on a child protection plan either at the time or prior to their death or serious injury.
Dr Ruth Gardner, the NSPCC's lead on neglect, said: "This study is the first time anyone has looked behind the stark figures to try and understand the complex dangers of neglect. We now have clear evidence that neglect can lead to catastrophic harm as well as corrosive long term damage to children's wellbeing.
"Child neglect is just as serious as a child being physically or sexually abused but many neglected children are falling through the child protection net. There have been a series of high profile cases where the authorities have failed to step in early enough despite warning signs of neglect, including Baby Peter and Khyra Ishaq.
"Most worrying are the cases where protection plans had been discontinued when we know with hindsight that there was still a risk of death or injury to the child. So it is vital that neglect cases are not downgraded or closed too soon and vulnerable families continue to get support to reduce the risks to children."
The NSPCC is now proposing an action plan that takes a strategic approach to cutting the numbers of children dying from neglect. The charity is calling for expert social workers in every local authority to advise on child neglect cases.