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Working Together 2018 defines neglect as “The persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development.

Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:

  • provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment)
  • protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger)
  • ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care-givers)
  • ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment


It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child's basic emotional needs, such as providing emotional warmth, nurture or developing health attachments.

Neglect cannot be defined as a one-off incident such as seeing an untidy kitchen while on a visit. It typically arises where there is an ongoing failure of a parent or carer to provide for the basic physical and psychological care needs of a child. 

The impact of neglect may become prevalent over a sustained period of time with evidence to support concerns usually gathered from a number of agencies/professionals.

It is therefore important for professionals to keep a focus on the child’s journey from needing to receive effective protection from neglect (and abuse).

In trying to define neglect we need to understand:

  • Neglect is something that is persistent and cumulative and occurs over time with little change, despite intervention.
  • That while neglect might occur within a family perceived to be living in poverty, the children at the greatest risk are those who live in families in which the parents’ own emotional impoverishment is so great that they actually do not know how to parent, do not understand their children’s needs and despite intensive intervention cannot provide for their needs.
  • When considering the risk of neglect in relation to an unborn child, the neglect of a parents own health or poor self-care not only can define the significant of risk and concern for a child’s development in the womb, but it can also provide a barometer for the likelihood of harm once the child is born.

Although professionals may be worried about a child, it’s not always easy to identify neglect. There’s often no single sign that a child or family need help. Neglect is the most common reason for professionals taking child protection action.

Practitioners should be aware that neglect can be life threatening and needs to be treated with as much urgency as other categories of maltreatment and is not confined to the youngest children occurring across all ages.

A simple and helpful way to view neglect is to consider the needs of children and whether or not their parents or carers are consistently meeting such needs. If not, then neglect may very well be an issue.

If you have concerns that a child is being neglected please contact:

Graded Care Profile 2 (GCP2)

Graded Care Profile 2 (GCP2) is a tool used across Bedfordshire to assess, measure and support families where there are concerns regarding neglect.

The original GCP was a tool designed in 1995 to provide an objective measure of the care of the children. The GCP model is primarily based on the qualitative measure of the commitment shown by parents or carers in meeting their children’s developmental needs.

It is a tool that we will be using to assess, measure and support families where there are concerns regarding neglect.

It is an assessment tool that will highlight the areas of strength and the areas that will require further, more specific targeted support.

Any professional who has had the training maybe involved in carrying out the GCP with a family and all professionals are welcome to contribute towards the completion of the GCP2.

Free GCP2 training for Bedford Borough based practitioners can be accessed by contacting EHTraining@bedford.gov.uk.

Additional information and resources about the Graded Care Profile 2:

Pan Beds video on the Graded Care Profile


Useful resources

Neglect campaign and resources

The Neglect Matters campaign launched in 2018 aimed to raise awareness of neglect with free awareness sessions for professionals in Luton, Central Bedfordshire and Bedford. For more information, please click on the links below:

Neglect Campaign Posters - Bedfordshire Neglect Matters Campaign

Neglect Matters Young People’s Booklet - Bedfordshire Neglect Matters Campaign

National information

Index of all pages: