Neglect is the most prevalent form of child maltreatment, and now represents up to one half of children and young people on child protection registers in the UK. It is an insidious form of abuse affecting children in a variety of ways, including impaired growth and development, and poor health. Its consequences can be severe and long term, depriving children of the opportunity to realise their potential in all areas of social functioning, relationships and educational achievement. Neglect encompases emotional deprivation, and there is a risk of physical and sexual abuse as well. It is a contributory factor in many child deaths and in extreme cases it may be the direct cause. Working Together to Safeguard Children describes neglect as:
The persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child's health and development. It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, failing to protect a child from physical harm or danger, or the failure to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of or unresponsiveness to a child's basic emotional needs.
With some forms of abuse parents behave in a way that can be perceived as hostile and interfering towards a child. Neglect, however, is defined through acts of parental omission. Sometimes known as 'passive abuse', it is nevertheless a failure to provide or respond to the changing needs of a growing child. The extent of this ranges from the inadequate but well-