Skip to content

Training and resources for professionals

Learning briefing: Child A and Child B – Neglect

1.The Background

This case relates to two children in a family Child A (Age 10) and Child B (Age 8)who were subject to many years of neglect. The parents had substance misuse and mental health problems and all family members were known to a range of agencies.

2. Safeguarding Concerns

The children were suffering with the cumulative effect of neglect (multiple tooth extractions, untreated eczema, associated itching and pain, anaemia, weight loss, social exclusion due to their poor hygiene and lice infestation)which had a profound effect on their psychological and emotional wellbeing.

3. The Issues

The issue was one of chronic and serious neglect. The incidents, singly or cumulatively, did not trigger proportionate intervention until the children were hospitalised and police initiated protection.

4. The Review

What inhibits practitioners from identifying and naming neglect? What stops people using the case resolution protocol when they are frustrated with the lack of progress or where there is a disagreement about safeguarding decisions? What helps practitioners stop and review at appropriate intervals when there are persistent problems?

5. The Findings

Child A and Child B suffered prolonged and significant neglect. Working with chronic neglect is complex and challenging, particularly when there is a background of poverty, parents are hard to engage and have limited capacity for change. It is important to focus on the cumulative and devastating impact on children and to feel confident talking explicitly about neglect with parents and colleagues.

6. The Considerations

Agencies should keep a sharp focus on the experience of the child asking themselves “What is life like for a child in this family?” When a case is to be stepped-up or stepped-down, rigorous supervision and management support is essential to ensure practitioners have an adequate knowledge of neglect, the long-term impact and what works; this will help them reflect on their cases, think systemically about risk and avoid over optimism or over focusing on the needs of the parents.

If you are worried about the safety or wellbeing of a child or young person in Devon,
please complete the request for support online form.


If you think that the child is at risk of significant harm,
contact our Front Door directly by calling 0345 155 1071.


In an emergency call 999.