Page last updated at 09:06 GMT, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 10:06 UK

Child neglect cases 'overlooked'

A neglected child
About 10% of children in the UK experience neglect, studies suggest

A fifth of front-line staff working with young children are not trained to combat child neglect, a charity says.

More than 10% of teachers and medical workers have reported a rise in cases in the last year, despite the Baby P scandal, Action for Children says.

Of 1,926 primary school, pre-school, nursery and health workers polled, 44% wanted clearer guidance on intervening.

The charity says neglected children will continue to slip through the net unless early stage signs are addressed.

Poor social skills

Chief executive Clare Tickell said: "Neglect is a growing problem and one we must fix. Front-line 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 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."

Davina McCall
We all see neglected children without even knowing it and currently the issue is being overlooked
Davina McCall

More than half of those questioned said having the confidence to report less serious suspicions earlier would be helpful.

Poor parenting topped the list of reasons for rising cases of neglect, followed by family breakdown and "cyclical" family problems.

The recession and reduced family finances were also partly responsible, the survey found.

Action for Children has launched a nationwide appeal, fronted by TV host Davina McCall, to raise £17m to help neglected children.

She said: "Most people are unaware of neglect and that it's happening on our own doorsteps. We all see neglected children without even knowing it and currently the issue is being overlooked."

About 10% of children in the UK currently experience neglect, studies have suggested.

Those children are more likely to suffer emotional and mental health problems, poor social skills, limited school attendance and poor educational attainment, bullying and isolation.

Nearly a third of those surveyed felt under more pressure to intervene in suspected cases of neglect than they did five years ago.

Two-thirds of these cited high-profile cases such as Baby P as the reason for this change.

Peter Connelly was 17 months old when he died in August 2007 at the hands of his mother Tracey Connelly, her lover, Steven Barker and their lodger, Jason Owen.

He had 50 injuries despite 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police. A series of reviews have highlighted missed opportunities to act earlier, which might have saved his life.

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