Tackling child neglect

We are prioritising tackling child neglect to prevent more children from suffering its damaging, long-term effects.

Of all forms of maltreatment, neglect leads to some of the most profound negative and long-term effects on a child's behaviour, educational achievement, emotional wellbeing, and physical development.  

Neglect can be defined as a persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and psychological needs.  This often results in impairing the child’s health or development. Single instances of neglectful behaviour can also cause significant harm.  

Neglect is one of the most common reasons for a child or young person to be placed on the child protection register, or to become subject to a Child Protection Plan. 

Lack of parental care' is the most common reason for referral to the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration. 

In July 2020 there were 2,654 children on the child protection register, of which 38% had been subjected to emotional abuse and 42% had suffered from neglect.

National guidance

The National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland sets out how agencies should work together with children and young people, families and carers and communities to identify and respond to neglect.  

Addressing neglect and enhancing wellbeing

In September 2016 the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS) established a pilot programme in Inverclyde, Dundee, and Perth and Kinross.  

The programme was established to support local authorities improve the help offered to families experiencing multiple pressures where children may be experiencing, neglect.  

Findings from the programme will be shared across education, health and children's services to identify existing areas of good practice, as well as areas where improvements can be made. The National Guidance includes a practice insight on Addressing Neglect and Enhancing Wellbeing programme. 

Understanding the causes and supporting families  

We work with Child Protection Committees Scotland (CPCScotland) to inform legislation and policy relevant to neglect and wider social care.  

CPCScotland has published a framework that sets out a series of guiding principles for local partners across Scotland to help prevent, reduce and manage the impact of neglect on children and families. 

If you are concerned about a child or young person

Call 999 if they are in immediate danger

Call the police on 101 if you think a crime has been committed

More about reporting a concern and for advice and support

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