Margaret Wade and Marie Sweeney have now rightly received jail terms for the horrific and senseless death of little Lauren Wade.

The very people responsible for loving and nurturing the defenceless toddler instead neglected her to a horrific degree, resulting eventually in her agonising death. A significant case review will be published in the coming months and it’s correct we wait until a thorough investigation is carried out before drawing firm conclusions about what went so tragically wrong in this family.

But we know that neglect, sadly, is the most common form of child abuse and that hundreds of children across Scotland right now are suffering the terrible harm that comes from physical or emotional neglect.

Last year alone (2016/17) more than a 1,000 children were placed on the child protection register in Scotland as a result of concerns about neglect or emotional abuse. At the same time, our NSPCC Helpline referred 918 cases of neglect to local agencies in Scotland like police and social services after being contacted by people with concerns about a child’s wellbeing.

But there are many more children suffering abuse or neglect than those who are known to the NSPCC, police or social workers. We estimate that for every child subject to a child protection plan or register another eight have suffered maltreatment. These children are not visible and are not receiving help. Lauren Wade’s case was as extreme as it was horrific but often when a young child is subject to emotional neglect and abuse the effects are not visible although the impact can be devastating.

So what can be done to reduce the number of children in our society who are suffering from neglect? At NSPCC Scotland we believe that early intervention is key. We need to support children and families from the outset, to prevent crises arising. In child and family policy, we often aspire to be like our Scandinavian neighbours who repeatedly top child wellbeing tables. But those countries are where they are because they make deliberate decisions to prioritise investment in children and in families.

Early intervention means identifying and supporting the most at risk families in our community at the earliest stage. This is critical to giving a baby the best possible start in life. There’s a collective acceptance that this is the right way forward. Yet it’s not happening, or certainly not happening on the scale we want it to. Intentions are positive but the delivery is falling some way short.

First, crucial improvements are needed in the provision of infant and maternal mental health services. When new families are struggling and need help supporting the parent-child relationship at the earliest possible stage is crucial to giving every child the nurturing and loving foundation they need to grow and to prevent abuse and neglect.

The government has signalled it plans to invest in these services but we believe there needs to be urgency in putting them into place. That includes specialist services that can help where there are serious problems, but all frontline staff dealing with families can also play a crucial role. Giving them the confidence and skills to help at the earliest point must be a priority.

Child neglect leaves a lasting mark. Those who suffer this form of cruelty in childhood are at increased risk of physical or mental health problems not just in childhood but throughout their adulthood.

Protecting children from neglect is a pressing issue not just because of the need to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society from grave and lasting harm, but also because of the damage the consequences of neglect does to our society as a whole.

The dreadful death of Lauren Wade an extreme example of the horrific nature of neglect – something that is an everyday reality for too many of our children – and a reminder that investing in children and their earliest experiences is an urgent national priority.

Adults concerned about child neglect can contact the NSPCC Helpline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0808 800 5000, or Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111.

Matt Forde, national head of service for NSPCC Scotland