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Adults 'afraid' to report child neglect

Date:25 FEB 2009

One in four adults have suspected that a child they know is being neglected but over one third did not report their concern to anyone, a new survey shows.

The survey was commissioned by charity Action for Children to raise awareness of the difficulty of identifying and preventing the neglect of children. While in 2008 neglect was the most common reason for putting a child on the child protection register, much public confusion and misunderstanding remains surrounding the issue. Neglect is not as high profile as other forms of child abuse and is often less easy to indentify because it tends to be a series of events which are usually symptomatic of other long-term and complex problems within a family. People who are concerned that there may be a problem often do not know when to tell someone, or who to tell.

Of the 1,000+ adults surveyed, 16% said they did not tell anyone because they were frightened of repercussions and 23% said they did not have enough information about who to ask for help. 11% would rather tell a neighbour, friend or relative about their concerns than contact social services or the police.

If neglect is not recognised at an early stage it can lead to children suffering serious harm. A major piece of research has been commissioned between Action for Children and the University of Salford to investigate how cases of neglect can be identified and tackled as early as possible. Professor Tony Long of Salford University said:

"Unlike sexual or physical abuse, neglect is often overlooked and poorly understood."

It is hoped that the results of the research will inform Government policy on the issue, and ultimately have a major impact on the way in which children and families are supported.