By Colin Anderson

CHILD Protection Committees Scotland (CPC Scotland) has long recognised neglect as one of the most damaging of childhood experiences. Child neglect is associated with some of the poorest behavioural, emotional and cognitive outcomes. These poor outcomes matter hugely, as it is these which can affect life chances and contribute significantly to widening social, economic and health inequalities. What’s more, the negative effects of child neglect don’t just affect children, they impact on all of us because of the high social and economic costs.

Today CPCScotland publishes a framework offering guidance for all child protection professionals across Scotland. This report aims to encourage a deeper understanding of neglect and what actions may be taken to prevent, reduce and manage the impact of neglect on children and families, and on our wider society.

Child neglect is a big issue for Scottish society. Official statistics record neglect and emotional abuse as the two most common concerns on child protection registers, and irrefutable research demonstrates that wider environmental issues such as poverty, health and social inequalities and homelessness feature large in cases of child neglect. These factors are often referred to as structural causes, and are stubbornly prevalent in Scotland, but there is no doubt that families living with stress factors such as poverty undermines parents’ ability to look after their children. Of course, most families living in challenging conditions do not neglect their children, but it can come as no surprise that the more stresses and challenges being faced the more likely it is that a child may be neglected.

As we enter an economically uncertain winter, CPCScotland is concerned that a perfect storm of conditions, including reduced income alongside increased food and fuel poverty, may begin to take an even greater toll on families. Decreasing financial security and the associated increase in levels of stress and anxiety not only damages individuals but can also play a part in child neglect.

Finding solutions for what are long-running and entrenched problems is no easy task, but in these challenging times it is even more important than ever that Scotland addresses the structural influences which affect child protection. In our framework CPCScotland sets out a range of approaches which recognise and give deeper importance to the identification, management and reduction of cases of child neglect.

Central to our ambitions is encouragement of the adoption of a rights-based approach which involves listening to children and their families. We recognise that trusting, valuing and developing the workforce is critical to both identifying neglect and to understanding and supporting families who face adversity. We are also committed to promoting a multi-agency strategy for neglect within the wider context of child welfare and social justice and to embedding anti-poverty action across all parts of children’s social care.

To achieve these goals, genuine partnership working with an intensified focus on outcomes from all organisations involved in the protection of our children will play a huge role in overcoming child neglect and the lasting damage it can create. That’s certainly something worth working together for.

Colin Anderson, is chair, Child Protection Committees Scotland 's Neglect sub-group