A Review of Child Neglect in Scotland

The study reviewed the scale and nature of child neglect in Scotland and was conducted by researchers at te University of Stirling.


It is in this context that Action for Children in partnership with the University of Stirling are undertaking a series of UK wide reviews of child neglect. The first annual UK wide review, which was launched in January 2012, aimed to gauge the current situation for neglected children and monitor the effects of changes in national and local policy and practice (Burgess et al., 2012).

Building on the information gathered through the UK-wide reviews, the Scottish Government funded this additional short but comprehensive piece of work in order to obtain a more detailed picture about child neglect in Scotland. It was conducted by researchers from the University of Stirling in partnership with Action for Children. This Scottish extension fits with the priorities of the strategic assessment and work plan of the Scottish Child Protection Committee Chairs Forum.

The review focuses on the perceptions of professional staff working with children, looking at how we respond to children who are at risk of or who are experiencing neglect, rather than about how their situation improves as a result of services' interventions. The key questions underlying the review are:

  • How many children are currently experiencing neglect in Scotland?
  • How good are we at recognising children who are at risk of, or are experiencing, neglect?
  • How well are we helping children at risk of, or currently experiencing, neglect?

We gathered evidence for the review in a number of ways, primarily between January and April 2012, although we also included the findings from survey questionnaire returns from six Child Protection Committees and three focus groups undertaken in Scotland as part of the UK-wide review between June and August 2011. The full details can be seen in Appendix A, but in summary these were:

  • collation of published statistics and a review of policy developments
  • analysis of findings from survey questionnaires distributed to all Child Protection Committee Lead Officers in Scotland, with a return rate of over 75% (n=25)
  • analysis of findings from telephone interviews with a small number of voluntary sector representatives
  • summary of discussions from 15 multi-agency focus groups with practitioners and managers in six areas of Scotland including an urban, rural and island mix.

A UK-wide poll was undertaken by YouGov in August 2011, which asked a range of questions about child neglect of 2,062 adults in the general public and 2,174 professionals (including social workers, police, health professionals and teachers). The poll findings were broadly consistent across the UK and, while some are summarised in this report, more detailed findings can be found in the previous report 'Child Neglect in 2011' (Burgess et al., 2012).

We also gathered information about examples of specific responses and services for neglected children and their families from across Scotland. We have included some of these as 'practice examples', with the kind permission of survey respondents for those areas. We do not mean to suggest that they are more effective than the many others which are in operation across the country, nor were we able to collect information about the outcomes for children. However, we wanted to provide a flavour of the type of services and interventions that are in place.

Neither this study, nor the wider UK review, gathered the views of potentially or actually neglected children and their families. Future iterations of what is planned to be an annual review will address this issue. Existing evidence about the views of children and parents as to what may be helpful has been collated in Daniel et al. (2011).


Email: Philip Raines

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