Caroline Sharp, Claire Easton, Gill Featherstone, Helen Poet, Emily Buchanan
26 March 2015
LARC6 focused on the question:
'How can we (local authorities) work differently to identify child neglect at an early stage and encourage effective, low-cost solutions drawing particularly on the strengths of the family network and the wider community?'
Nine authorities across England carried out the research, supported by the LARC researchers at NFER and RiP.
- Most parents and community representatives thought they have a role to play in identifying and helping to address neglect. But there were mixed views about whether everyone in the wider community sees this as their role.
- There are a number of challenging issues, including that some communities are fragmented and suspicious of outsiders. Also, neglectful behaviour can become 'normalised', so people may not recognise that their behaviour is causing harm. Practitioners do not know which community organisations exist, or what help these bodies can offer.
- Practitioners and families felt that more help needs to be offered to families early on, before issues escalate. However, practitioners felt that most help was available when families encountered more complex difficulties, rather than offering them preventative advice and support.
- The following strategies were suggested: promoting services more effectively; simplifying processes and reducing waiting lists; improving multi-agency working and information sharing; improving families’ knowledge about children's social care to help remove the stigma associated with getting help; considering opportunities for offering families peer to peer support within the community; putting support in place for the whole family; and ensuring frontline staff have core skills to help develop and enhance relationships with families.
- In addition, the report identifies the need to achieve clear definitions, raise community awareness about different levels of neglect and provide training/support for those working with families.