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Social Services have suggested that I have neglected my children - what does this mean?

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One of the first images that pops into a person’s mind when they hear that someone has social services involvement with their children is that of children who are severely neglected. The NSPCC website defines neglect as the “ongoing failure to meet a child’s basic needs” and lists it as the most common form of child abuse.[1] A child’s basic needs covers their health, physical and emotional needs, stimulation and safety amongst other things. This means that whilst a child’s physical needs may be being met, the parent’s care may be falling short in the other areas and they may be omitting to meet specific needs of the children without necessarily intending to do so.

When social services become involved with a family, they may assess the parent / carer’s ongoing care of the child(ren) to establish if there are signs of neglect in their day to day life. The signs of neglect may be small and hardly noticeable when considered in isolation but when considered as part of a wider picture may occur persistently and could be described as chronic. There also may be instances where a one off event such as a police call out to a property for domestic violence or a parent being under the influence of alcohol or drugs whilst they are caring for their children may represent a wider theme to a child’s life which needs to be considered by practitioners. Social workers take their investigations very seriously as neglect can have a lasting impact on the child as they develop and can even be fatal.

Neglect is not often prevalent in isolation and can coincide with other forms of abuse such as sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse and this is always at the forefront of the social worker’s mind. When completing an assessment, social workers use a tool known as the ‘Neglect Toolkit’ to consider what is happening for the children at the time of their involvement and this can be re-visited at a later date to establish if there has been any improvements or dips in the care offered to the children.

The ‘Neglect Toolkit’ covers the key areas of care that are essential for a child’s well-being and these areas are:

  1. Physical Care
  2. Health
  3. Safety and Supervision
  4. Love and Care
  5. Stimulation and Education
  6. Parental Motivation to Change[2]

The assessment looks into the parent’s ability to respond to the child(ren)’s needs so this is evidence based from reports and observations of the care offered to the children. The social worker uses a toolkit form and assesses care on a scale of 1-4.



A score of 1 is that of care that is child focused, 2 is adult focused care giving, 3 is where the child’s needs are secondary to that of the adults and 4 is where the child’s needs are not considered by those caring for them. The amount of support and intervention for the family is considered when the social worker completes the assessment. Generally, the thresholds for intervention and support are that if there is a number of scores which are a 2 then preventative support can be implemented and this may be in the form of Early Help becoming involved. If it is concluded that the care offered to the children is falling in the category of 3 then the social worker may place the children on a Child In Need Plan or a Child Protection Plan. If a child is placed on one of these plans then they will be given a category such as neglect, physical, emotional or sexual risk under which all professionals involved with the family will consider when discussing the care of the children. If the majority of the observations made by the social worker in their assessment is scored as a 4 which means that the children’s needs are not considered then the child will be placed on a Child Protection Plan and the social worker may seek legal advice to see if the Local Authority can take the matter to Court to safeguard the children.

Here at Emery Johnson Astills, we have extensive experience in advising and assisting parents at all stages of involvement with the Local Authority including Child Protection Conferences, Pre-Proceedings meetings and during Care Proceedings.

If you have Local Authority involvement with regards to your child or unborn baby and would like advice in relation to this then please contact Emery Johnson Astills at either our Leicester Office on 0116 255 4855 or our Loughborough Office on 01509 610 312 and ask for a member of the Care Team so that we can advise you accordingly. Alternatively, please visit either of the above offices or email us on and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.