Noticing and helping neglected children
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Stirling
Unit of AssessmentSocial Work and Social Policy
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Summary of the impact
The findings from this research on noticing and helping neglected
children are contributing to shaping effective responses by practitioners.
In high income countries neglect is the most frequent category of child
maltreatment. In the UK as many as one in ten children may experience
neglect and yet systems here, and other jurisdictions with similar models,
struggle to provide an effective response. The research at Stirling is
improving practitioner knowledge and confidence with the development of
comprehensive training materials and follow-on knowledge exchange work
with multi-disciplinary groups of practitioners in England. It has
contributed to policy development in England and Scotland.
`Noticing and helping the neglected child: a systematic literature
review', led by Daniel, was part of the UK Government funded Safeguarding
Children Research Initiative (SCRI). It addressed three questions:
- What is known about the ways in which children and families directly
and indirectly signal their need for help?
- To what extent are practitioners equipped to recognise and respond to
the indications that a child's needs are likely to be, or are being
neglected, whatever the cause?
- Does the evidence suggest that professional response could be swifter?
Using systematic review guidelines 14 databases were searched for primary
research studies published in English from 1995-2005. An initial 20,480
items were systematically filtered down to 63 papers for inclusion.
Messages for policy, practice and research were produced and papers
written for peer-reviewed journals. The research report was subject to
rigorous peer review by the Department for Education independent panel and
few amendments were required. The book (Daniel et al. 2011) was
written at the request of the funders as part of a SCRI series.
Neglect tends to attract less public attention than other maltreatment.
All too often children have to endure chronic lack of physical and
emotional care over long periods of time before they receive help. The
research shed considerable light on what may be going wrong. It led to the
conclusion that `neglect' as defined by the official system has become
overly complicated and process-bound. The studies reviewed had gathered
evidence about the ways in which neglected children's need for help is
spotted by those in a position to help and what happens in the early
stages of the involvement of the system — known as 'recognition and
response'. The review confirmed that the evidence about the signs of
neglect upon children's well-being and development is extensive The
assumption is that practitioners such as health visitors need to be better
`detectives', however, the research indicated that practitioners are
better able to spot both the direct and indirect signs of neglect than
they are given credit for. Practitioners such as teachers and health
visitors find that it is difficult to get a response to their concerns
from children's social care and social workers find that they are caught
up in a lot of procedural issues. One of the key findings from the
research was that the systems developed in the UK can actually get in the
way of neglected children getting help promptly. On the basis of the
research a more child-focused framework for practitioners was developed.
The study led to Action for Children commissioning Daniel to lead a
series of annual research studies to review policy and practice with
neglect to inform policy on recognition and response.
References to the research
Daniel, B.; Taylor, J. & Scott, J. (2010) `Recognition of neglect and
early response: overview of A systematic Review of the Literature' Child
and Family Social Work, 15 (2), 248-257
Daniel, B.; Taylor, J. and Scott, J. (2011) Recognizing and Helping
the Neglected Child: Evidence-Based Practice. London: Jessica
Davies C. and Ward H. (2011) Safeguarding Children Across Services:
Messages from Research on Identifying and Responding to Child
Maltreatment. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.Taylor, J.,
Daniel, B. & Scott, J. (2012) `Noticing and Helping the Neglected
Child: Towards an International Research Agenda' Child and Family
Social Work, 17, 416—426.
Daniel, B.; Burgess, C.; Scott, J.; Mulley, K. and Dobbin, H. (2013) The
State of Child Neglect in the UK: An Annual Review by Action for
Children in Partnership with the University of Stirling. Watford,
Action for Children.
Details of research projects
The research was one of 11 studies in the SCRI commissioned by the then DH
and DCSF as part of the Government's response to the enquiry following the
death of Victoria Climbié. Daniel (PI) and colleagues were successful in
the competitive bidding for £77,933 to undertake the project. The study
commenced in Feb 2007 and the first draft of the report was completed by
Stirling University in February 2008. The research report was subject to
rigorous peer review by an independent research liaison group and few
amendments were required. After a gap to allow the other projects to be
completed the final report was ratified in early 2009. The findings have
been summarised by Davies and Ward (2012) for SCRI as part of a series of
appendices on the studies and also incorporated into the narrative of the
SCRI overview publication: The Stirling studies funded by Action for
Children run from 2011-14 1st Annual Review
of Child Neglect 2011, Action for Children £30,868, 2nd Review
2012 £36,444, 3rd Review 2013
£48,215; Scottish Review 2012, Scottish Government, £9,917.80.
Details of the impact
The most tangible impact has come from two strands that reach across the
UK. The first has been significant improvement in practitioner knowledge
and confidence from training and knowledge exchange. With Action for
Children, Daniel won a bid to the DfE for £182,951.20 to develop training
materials building on the SCRI research for use by all Local Safeguarding
Children Boards in England (completed 10/7/12)1. The Scottish
Government commissioned a version not tied to English policy, (completed
May 2013). The materials are embedded in a DfE funded training initiative
in England led by `Child and Family Training'2.
Over 100 participating agencies have access to an e-learning module on
neglect developed by Research in Practice (RiP) which includes the
findings and a podcast by Daniel3. It is RiP's most popular
module and between Mar '12 - Oct `13 had already been used by 439 people.
Of 107 who provided feedback 64% reported increased knowledge and 83% said
they would use the information with comments such as `Enable me to
make more informed decisions whilst working with children in care.'; `i
will draw upon the research when dealing with possible neglect in
families'; `Yes all future work and earlier identif[i]cation of
neglect.' All clinical staff in NHSScotland have access to the NHS
Education for Scotland Child Protection on-line Learning Resource which
includes the findings and a podcast by Daniel4.
A follow-on ESRC knowledge exchange award was obtained in 2012 for
£88,493.52. Action on Neglect used co-production to work over a
year with multi-disciplinary groups of 37 practitioners in three
participating authorities, 9 parents and 4 young people who developed
specific ways to improve `pathways to help' for neglected children at a
local level that were developed into national guidance for policy and
practice. 84 representatives from the UK attended the national launch. 161
practitioners attended final practice development events held in each
participating authority in Spring 2013, examples of feedback are `What
I will take away with me from this experience is to always remain child
focus[ed]' (Stockport); `I am planning to roll out your pack to
our college teaching team' (Barnet); `I have had so many people
compliment the event and how much the content had and will inform their
practice'; `the resource packs are beautiful and I love the positive
images of children' (BathNES). Several authorities are drawing on
the work for service development.
The second and most significant impact strand has been policy influence.
The findings of the first review were reported to the Chair of the House
of Commons Education Committee inquiry on child protection that
subsequently moved to a new focus on responses to neglected children. The
report cites the research and makes specific recommendations on training,
early intervention and timely responses (2012)5. At the UK
launch of the 1st review on 24/1/12 at the House of Commons the
Children's Minister and Shadow Minister emphasised the importance of early
intervention and commitment to implement some of the recommendations.
There was an audience reach of 97,470,367 for the coverage and by March
2012 over 1,000 people had accessed information from the Action for
Children website6. A Senior Policy Advisor said `...more MPs
wrote to Ministers here on that issue than anything else.' The
Minister's responses to two Westminster Parliamentary Questions mentioning
the reviews (30.1.12, 19.3.12) note a consultation on children's
safeguarding performance information `this includes additional
information on neglect'; changes to social work training and changes
to statutory guidance: `Our aim is to free social workers and other
professionals from unnecessary bureaucracy...'7. The
revised Working Together guidance on multi-professional working
includes attention to the provision of `early help'8. The
second review was launched at the all-party Child Protection Group in
Westminster 6.2.13 where the Children's minister announced that Ofsted
would undertake a thematic review of neglect as recommended (to report in
All the research has impacted on Scotland and the impending Children
and Young People (Scotland) Bill. Of the Scottish report, one child
protection lead officer commented: `I have circulated it widely within
[LA] asking everyone to study the work, as I feel it should become one
of those seminal documents that very clearly and directly informs policy
in Scotland.' (25.7.12). Children in Scotland (the national agency
for those working with children and their families in Scotland) hosted
seminar attended by Scottish Government policy makers to explore ways in
which the body of research can continue to shape developments.
Daniel gave evidence to, and is quoted in the report of the Parliamentary
Inquiry into Children Taken into Care10.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- University of Stirling and Action for Children Childhood neglect:
Improving Outcomes for Children English Training Pack available at
Scottish pack from www.withscotland.org.
- Information on Child and Family Training Initiative available on
request or from:
- Research in Practice elearning module available at http://www.rip.org.uk/putting-it-into-practice/e-learning
had been accessed 439 times by 14.10.13 since it went live in March 2012
(evidence from Geoff Owen, Research and Development Officer RiP).
Spreadsheet of analysis of hits and feedback comments compiled by RiP
available on request.
- NHS Education for Scotland Child Protection at
- House of Commons (2012) Children First: The Child Protection
System in England. Volume I, available at:
specific reference to the research findings in s53; copy of written
evidence available on request or at
Annual Reviews of Neglect — Action for Children have compiled a
breakdown of media coverage very detailed accounts of the policy impact
of the reviews and evidence of significance and reach (available on
request). Extract from the Action for Children analysis sent to DANIEL
Number of unique visits to neglect review policy pages from 24th
January - today: Short URL: http://www.actionforchildren.org.uk/neglectreview
Long URL: http://www.actionforchildren.org.uk/policy-research/policy-priorities/child-neglect-in-2011
= 516 Parliamentary toolkit: 51. Neglect review on Google Scholar: 60
- Note of Parliamentary Questions available on request or at:
- Department for Education (2013) Working Together to Safeguard
Children. London:DfE available on request or at
See sections 7-23 for references to Early Help and Appendix C for link
to the Training Materials.
- Note on thematic review of neglect available on request or from
- Report on Scottish Inquiry into decision making on whether
children should be taken in to care, (2012), evidence from Daniel
cited on pages 7 and 20 — available at: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/46956.aspx.
Full transcript of evidence session available on request.