Signs of Neglect

For more information on neglect and its effect on children, click here.

Knowing the signs of neglect can help to give a voice to children. Any child can suffer neglect, although some may be more vulnerable than others. When families go through a tough time (e.g. experiencing relationship problems, financial hardship, poverty, mental health issues, addiction to drugs or alcohol), parents or carers may struggle to maintain a loving home for their child. Children more vulnerable also include children who are born prematurely, have a disability or have complex health needs, are in care, or are seeking asylum.

Neglect can be very difficult to notice as having one of the signs doesn’t mean that a child is experiencing neglect. You might be able to tell that there is a serious problem if a child display multiple signs over an extended period of time.

Signs of neglect include:

  • Being frequently absent from school
  • Inappropriate clothing (e.g. shoes too small, clothes are ill-fitted or unsuitable for the weather conditions)
  • Clothes are consistently dirty or smelly
  • Being hungry
  • Hands are cold, red and swollen
  • Unkempt appearance and poor hygiene; hair quality is poor or is messy, teeth are dirty, skin dirty
  • Lacking necessary medical or dental care, including immunisations or glasses
  • Missing medical appointments
  • Health problems, including anaemia, body issues, poor muscle tone or prominent joints, regular illness of infections, repeated accidental injuries (often cause by lack of supervision), skin issues (e.g. sores, rashes, flea bites, scabies, ringworm), thin or swollen tummy, weight or growth issues, untreated injuries
  • Developmental problems, including poor language or social skills
  • Frequent and untreated nappy rash in infants
  • Being constantly underweight or considerably losing weight
  • The parent or carer has failed to keep the child protected from physical harm or danger
  • Begging or stealing things like money or food
  • Living in an unsuitable environment (e.g. no heating, messy)
  • Being left home alone for long periods of time
  • Taking on the role of a carer for other family members
  • Changes in behaviour, such as becoming clingy, aggressive, withdrawn, depressed or anxious, displaying obsessive behaviour
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Using drugs or alcohol
  • Self-harm or attempts at suicide

The Graded Care Profile: A Neglect Assessment Tool

The Graded Care Profile (GCP) is a widely used neglect assessment tool used by social workers to assess whether a child is at risk of neglect. The GCP helps to measure the quality of care being given to a child in respect of four domains of care:

  • Physical care
  • Safety
  • Affection/Love
  • Esteem

The tool, adopted by Dr Leon Polnay and Dr O P Srivastava (Bedfordshire and Luton Community NHS Trust and Luton Borough Council), gives an objective measure of the quality of care delivered to a child by grading against each domain, taking into consideration the effort and commitment shown by the parent or carer.

The GCP tool allows for areas of concern to be identified so that the family or carer can be supported appropriately.

Neglect Strategy

Click herefor the NSPCC’s information and guidance on neglect.


If you are concerned about a child, please contact Front Door For Families on 01273 290400, FrontDoorForFamilies@brighton-hove.gov.uk, or use their Online Referral Form.

If a child is in immediate danger, you should contact the police by calling 999.