Neglect and serious case reviews

Last updated: 04 Sep 2018 Topics: Neglect Case reviews

Systematic analysis of neglect in serious case reviews in England

We asked the University of East Anglia to explore the circumstances in which neglect can be catastrophic and have a fatal or seriously harmful outcome for a child.

This report provides a systematic analysis of neglect in serious case reviews in England, between 2003 and 2011.

It looks at how risks of harm accumulate and combine and the points at which intervention might successfully have helped to contain these risks.

Author: Marian Brandon, Sue Bailey, Pippa Belderson and Birgit Larsson
Year: 2013


Key findings

  • Neglect is much more prevalent in serious case reviews than had previously been understood (neglect was present in 60% of the 139 reviews from 2009-2011)
  • Neglect can be life threatening and needs to be treated with as much urgency as other categories of maltreatment
  • Neglect with the most serious outcomes is not confined to the youngest children, and occurs across all ages
  • The possibility that in a very small minority of cases neglect will be fatal, or cause grave harm, should be part of a practitioner's mindset. Practitioners, managers, policy makers and decision makers should be discouraged from minimising or downgrading the harm that can come from neglect and discouraged from allowing neglect cases to drift
  • The key aim for the practitioner working with neglect is to ensure a healthy living environment and healthy relationships for children.

Practitioners need to be supported by a system that allows them to make good relationships with children and parents and supports them in managing the risks of harm that stem from maltreatment. This includes the harm from neglect and the way that neglect can conceal other risks and dangers.

This study does not provide easy answers about the difficult judgements and decisions that may need to be made where neglect is present but shows how important it is to be open-minded and vigilant about where and how these risks manifest themselves.