Research shows early intervention is critical to prevent child neglect

Wednesday 30 May 2012
Research carried out by the University of Salford on behalf of Action for Children has shown that early and effective interventions can stop child neglect in its tracks and successfully improve outcomes for children and their families.

The charity commissioned the University to work with a number of its community-based services across the UK to examine the nature and impact of support being offered to children who were being neglected or who are at risk of neglect, and which approaches were most successful in improving outcomes.

Over a four year period, 85 families with children under the age of eight were followed from when they were first referred to Action to Children to when their case was closed.

A range of tailored support, including parenting programmes, home visiting and building relationships, was offered to families and played an integral role in helping turn their lives around.

In 79 per cent of cases, the Action for Children interventions succeeded in reducing the level of concern about neglect and preventing it from developing. In 59 per cent of cases, concern about neglect was removed completely.

Tony Long, Professor of Child & Family Health at the University of Salford, said: “The development of a trusting relationship between practitioners and parents is a vital first step to achieving the engagement of parents in efforts to address neglect.

“The nature of neglectful parenting, however, often demands persistence and resilience in the practitioner to achieve this relationship, as well as the knowledge and skills to effect the changes that are needed.

“In many families, children were suffering from the cumulative effects of lack of supervision, absence of routines and boundaries, and inadequate attention to hygiene and appropriate clothing. With regular home visiting, practical guidance, and a multi-faceted programme of support, all of these challenges could be met successfully to the lasting benefit of the children.”

David Derbyshire, Head of Performance Improvement at Action for Children, said: “Neglect is the most common form of child abuse in the UK, and we have seen time and again that intervening early can prevent issues within families spiralling out of control and being perpetuated through the generations.

“The research revealed that not only did our services make positive differences for children, but also that those changes were down to early help provided by workers committed to supporting vulnerable parents over time, and to challenging parents to deal with the root causes of neglect.

“It is critical that all child support services continue to work together to ensure the most vulnerable children and young people are protected and identified as early as possible.”

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