Child neglect not a priority for social workers
4 Oct 2012
Only one in ten social workers is confident that children suffering neglect are being properly protected.
Research by Community Care and the NSPCC has revealed that child neglect is not a priority for social workers, with 60 per cent saying they feel pressure to downgrade cases. The majority of the 242 social workers surveyed said they believed it was ‘quite’ or ‘very’ unlikely that local social services would take swift action to protect neglected children.
In contrast, where physical abuse was involved, 96 per cent of respondents said it was likely that prompt action would be taken and 94 per cent felt the same would be true for cases of sexual abuse.
NSPCC’s Chief Executive Andrew Flanagan commented on the difficulties in tackling cases of neglect:
“Neglect can be unique in terms of child abuse because it often relies on proving inaction such as not feeding a child adequately and can require evidence of this over a long period of time. Whereas sexual abuse or physical abuse may require evidence of just one incident such as a broken bone or severe bruising, that can be used to take urgent, decisive action.”
With neglect featuring in over half of social worker’s cases many admitted to feeling ‘powerless’ and lacking confidence in identifying and responding to cases of child neglect. Almost 90 per cent felt they needed more legal support when addressing neglect cases, compared with other forms of child abuse.
Andrew Flanagan said:
“Social workers are telling us that when it comes to child neglect at every stage, from identifying children suffering neglect, to getting help to families, to making a legal case for taking children into care when necessary, they face bottlenecks and obstacles to taking effective action."