A campaign to tackle the growing issue of child neglect in Bedfordshire is launching next week.
The NSPCC has teamed up with local authorities and health organisations to push the issue of neglect into the public eye and let Bedfordshire’s young people know where to find help.
Neglect is the continuing failure to meet a young person’s basic needs and is the most common type of child abuse with one in ten children experiencing it.
Neglect happens when parents or carers can’t or won’t meet a child’s needs. Sometimes this is because they don’t have the skills or support they need, and sometimes it’s down to problems such as mental health issues, drug and alcohol problems or poverty.
A young person who is being neglected may be left hungry or dirty, without adequate clothing, shelter, supervision, medical or health care.
In 2016/17, reports of neglect to the NSPCC’s Helpline in Bedfordshire reached record numbers; the NSPCC referred an average of three reports of child neglect every week to Bedfordshire police and social services.
The Neglect Matters campaign launches on October 30 and aims to raise awareness of neglect with free awareness sessions for professionals in Luton,
Central Bedfordshire and Bedford.
Local organisations can host the sessions for staff who come into frequent contact with families and children, such as those working in libraries, leisure centres and support roles in children’s centres.
As well has helping people to understand the basic signs and symptoms of neglect, the sessions will include information on reaching adolescents. This is because teenagers are often viewed as being more resilient than younger children, but research shows they still need dedicated care to meet their physical and emotional needs, support their education, and keep them safe.
A guide for young people, called Feeling Invisible, will also be distributed, and adults in Bedfordshire will be able to get advice about how to recognise neglect in GP surgeries, community spaces such as sports centres and libraries, and online.
The NSPCC’s campaigns manager for Bedfordshire, Emma Motherwell, said: “It is so important that we understand the true nature and scale of child neglect in Bedfordshire, so we can collectively tackle the fundamental causes and reach out to young people who need our help.
“Neglect can have a huge impact on a young person’s physical and mental health, and can even be an indicator of other forms of abuse. Neglect is the
most common reason for taking child protection action.
“If you suspect a young person is being neglected, please contact the NSPCC Helpline, so we can alert the authorities to quickly step in and help them.”
Cllr Shan Hunt, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Social Care at Bedford Borough Council, said: “No child should ever experience neglect. It is important that people are aware of signs and know how to raise their concerns.
“Ensuring the safety of all children and young people in the Borough is a priority for the Council and has led to the launch of this campaign with the NSPCC so that young people know how and where to find help.”
Fran Pearson, Independent Chair, Luton Safeguarding Children Board, said: “Adolescents can sometimes be wrongly perceived as needing less care and support than younger children, and we recognise that some professionals may find it challenging to identify some of the less obvious signs of neglect
particularly when it involves teenagers.
“Safeguarding children is everyone’s business so it’s important that we all - parents, carers and professionals- gain a better understanding of the issues so we can better support our vulnerable young people and let them know that neglect is never their fault and help is available so they don’t have to suffer in silence.”
Alan Caton OBE, Independent Chair, Central Bedfordshire Safeguarding Children Board, said: “Neglect can have serious and long-lasting effects on children, so it is important that we are all able to take action to keep children safe.
“Whatever your role, safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and I urge you all to take notice of the campaign and information so that you can play your part.”
For more information on the neglect sessions email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adults can contact the NSPCC Helpline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0808 800 5000, or email@example.com.
Children and young people who are concerned they or a friend are being neglected can call Childline for help on 0800 1111 or visit www.childline.org.uk.