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13 OCT 2009

Child neglect is rising, children's charity warns

More than one in 10 professionals working with children have seen an increase in suspected cases of child neglect in the last 12 months, a children's charity has warned.

More professionals need to learn to recognise the signs of child neglect as, according to new research released by Action for Children today, one in five professionals working with children has had no training or information on the issue.

Action for Children's research suggests that up to 10% of children in the UK have experienced neglect, the most common reason for a child having a child protection plan. The charity commissioned YouGov to survey nearly 2,000 primary school, pre-school, nursery and health professionals all who come into regular contact with children and young people, to gauge their understanding of child neglect and its causes.

Neglect is defined by the charity as the persistent failure to meet a child's basic needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child's health or development. It can be harder to recognise than other forms of child abuse because it is often a symptom of other long-term and complex problems in a family rather than an easily recognisable one off event.

More than half of those surveyed said being able to report less serious suspicions earlier would be helpful when dealing with suspected child neglect, while 44% said clearer guidance from the Government or their employers on when to intervene would also make a difference. Nearly a third of those questioned felt under more pressure to intervene in suspected child neglect cases than five years ago, with more than two-thirds of these citing media attention on high-profile cases as the reason why.

Action for Children Chief Executive, Clare Tickell, said: "Neglect is a growing problem and one we must fix. The same issues for neglected children and their families are coming up time and time again. Frontline staff are key to identifying early signs of neglect and giving children and families long term stable support to tackle the causes.

"Yet many professionals are telling us that they lack sufficient training and information to appropriately deal with suspected neglect.

"The Government must listen to what is being said and act to support early intervention."

The survey comes as Action for Children launches a nationwide appeal, supported by TV host Davina McCall, to raise £17 million to help neglected children.

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