Alex Dave, our new DigiSafe colleague, explores the link between neglect and poverty and asks DSLs to consider how they successfully identify and record concerns of neglect. Please also sign up for our new Introduction to Neglect training.
The cost-of-living crisis is hitting many families like a sledgehammer. According to the latest statistics from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, child poverty continues to rise with almost one in three children in the UK living in poverty (31%) - and the Resolution Foundation predicts that 500,000 more children will fall into absolute poverty in 2023. Poverty is leading to painful decisions that no parent wants to make; the choice between whether a child has a meal, whether the house is warm or whether they buy essentials like basic sanitary products.
Therefore, it is clear to see that this ongoing crisis is going to have a knock-on effect on the prevalence of neglect in our society, and we are sure that you are probably already seeing the impact of this in your school. Schools not only see neglected children and their associated physical/emotional/behavioural presentation, but also experience the effect of neglect through children's impacted learning and outcomes.
As a reminder, neglect is defined in Working Together to Safeguard Children as the following:
“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 as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:
Although poverty doesn’t directly lead to neglectful care (and most children who live in poverty are not neglected) there is an inextricable link. If parents don’t have the economic resource to provide for their child’s basic needs (such as food, clothing and shelter) then it’s understandable that their children may experience neglect. But poverty also has an indirect link to neglect, whereby parents living in poverty are more likely to experience mental health issues, domestic abuse, substance misuse, family breakdown and social isolation - all of which can then impact parenting. So, unlike most other types of maltreatment, neglect is usually unintentional and occurs as a by-product of various and sometimes multiple risk factors and/or stressors within the family. Therefore, how we respond to this and ultimately protect children from (further) harm, will need to be different to other forms of abuse.
Not only is it usually unintentional, but neglectful care often fluctuates - meaning the quality of care that a child receives may be fine at times, but at other times (of the week or the month, perhaps related to income), it is not. As schools, how do we help such families, and at what point do the concerns become 'persistent' and therefore require further intervention?
How do the above considerations influence and impact our identification and decision-making about neglect?
The questions above give some insight into how complex this area of safeguarding practice is, which is why LGfL will be developing new neglect support and guidance for schools. To kick things off, we have launched a new 2 hour Introduction to Neglect training session for DSLs. The session covers what neglect is, its impact on children and how to improve the identification of and response to neglect. Please book your place on one of the many upcoming dates- safetraining.lgfl.net