Raising awareness of adolescent neglect

Raising awareness of adolescent neglect

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A new report by The Children’s Society includes recommendations on tackling adolescent neglect for professionals who work with families – raising awareness about an issue where there remains a lack of research and guidance. Luton Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) commissioned The Children’s Society to carry out a review of the research about adolescent neglect.  The national charity’s report Thinking About Adolescent Neglect aims to increase the knowledge and understanding of this issue among professionals and to support the development and delivery of the Board’s strategy on neglect. Another recent report by The Children’s Society, Troubled Teens, highlighted how one in seven 14-15 year olds across the country are living with parents who neglect them in one or more ways. Lack of emotional support, inadequate concern for wellbeing and lack of engagement in a child’s education are all different types of neglect and often, affected adolescents may exhibit signs of harmful or anti-social behaviour and poor health. While some safeguarding professionals may find it challenging to identify these signs or may misunderstand them, the report outlined that taking initiative in such cases can be a crucial step in preventing ongoing neglect and avoiding potential future harm. The report includes detailed information concerning key issues for safeguarding professionals to consider when working with adolescents who are being neglected or at risk. Such factors include gender, individual needs of the child or parent, family structure, economic deprivation and sudden events which may contribute to cases of neglect. It describes the potential of a three-tiered approach to responding to neglect which has been advocated in research studies.

This includes initiatives to prevent neglect happening in the first place such as support for parents and awareness-raising in schools.  Where the first signs of neglect have become apparent a second tier of support focused upon early intervention is recommended including addressing causes of neglect and symptoms like substance misuse.  Where efforts to address neglect have not succeeded and the problem has become entrenched, the proposal is for an approach which may include more formal safeguarding interventions and specialist support for adolescents and their families where appropriate.

The Children’s Society has also prepared a briefing for professionals to help improve their knowledge, understanding and confidence around identifying and responding to adolescent neglect.

Fran Pearson, Chair of Luton Safeguarding Children’s Board, said: “We recognise that neglect is difficult to pin down and even more so when it involves teenagers, it is therefore vital that we gain a better understanding of the issues to inform safeguarding practice, which is why we commissioned The Children’s Society to carry out research on this subject. “This study provides a much needed insight into our local services and the briefing they have provided for professionals is an excellent foundation for helping local practitioners recognise and address the different signs of adolescent neglect. We are determined to provide agencies with the support and tools required to tackle neglect and we will continue with this work until we have made an impact. “The framework proposed by The Children’s Society to address this issue relies on a multi-agency approach to improve support for families and neglected teenagers in Luton and we will ensure this is a key element within our strategy.” Report author Phil Raws, a Senior Researcher at The Children’s Society, said: “Adolescents are often wrongly seen as needing less care and support than younger children, but our Troubled Teens report highlighted the scale of neglect of this age-group.  “From our own research we know that parental neglect of adolescents is linked to lots of problems for them – including hidden harm to their well-being, as well as risky behaviour like  excessive drinking, which they are more likely to be involved in than their peers. “While we are yet to see consistency in understanding, assessing and tackling neglect, we are finding that more professionals are becoming aware of the need to address this challenging issue, as demonstrated by the commissioning of this new report by the LSCB. Publication is timely, as Ofsted will soon publish a report on responses to the neglect of older children after the Joint Targeted Area Inspections which took place last year.

“We hope our report and briefing will help improve awareness, understanding and responses to adolescent neglect in Luton and will support positive changes in other areas of the country too.” The full report ‘Thinking about adolescent neglect’ and accompanying briefing are available at lutonlscb.org.uk/ and

Thinking About Adolescent Neglect


Information about The Children’s Society’s neglect research and the Troubled Teens study is available at:


Professionals Briefing on Adolescent Neglect


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