Child neglect has been staring us in the face for too long. Headlines relate the tragic stories of children who grow up shockingly deprived and, in extreme cases, die because of neglect. These children not only lack basic essentials like nutritious food and adequate clothing, they also lack the love, support and warmth that every youngster needs to thrive.
Doubt and fear of getting it wrong must play on people's minds even if they are worried. Often there are no obvious, physical signs of neglect. But if a child you know shows signs of not being fed or clothed properly, is missing school a lot or is left unsupervised and alone inappropriately for their age, we urge people to alert the professionals. I remember speaking to Claire [not her real name], one of our many fantastic foster carers. She has been looking after a 15-year-old boy who came into her care about two years ago, having suffered years of neglect. She spoke of how he looked like an 'eight-year-old' because he had been so badly underfed...
Children who may be suffering or who are at greater risk of neglect, but whose circumstances do not reach an authority's threshold to receive social care support, are less likely to get the help that they need. Instead, their situations can be allowed to deteriorate to become even more desperate or dangerous. It is a tragedy that due to a lack of gathering the right information, children whose lives could be improved are needlessly put at further risk. Child neglect can be stopped in its tracks.
Emotional neglect is a clearly defined form of child abuse, with studies throughout the world evidencing its detrimental impact. As Robert Buckland recently said in New Humanist magazine, this law change is about tackling 'the systematic terrorising of children by parents who make their lives a living hell'.
As bad systems beget bad systems, good systems beget good systems - that's just the way it is. It is too late for the likes of poor Baby P, but we CAN seek to protect other children who are at risk by supporting MPs who promote this essential state-of-the-art, MIS-powered Super Hospital system model.
At Action for Children, we have reached a huge milestone - following our three-year campaign and thanks to the Ministry of Justice, the legal definition of child cruelty will include emotional as well as physical harm. This new law will change lives. I've met children and young people who have suffered intolerable emotional abuse at the hands of people who are supposed to love them most.
One in ten children - more than 1.5million - suffers from neglect. It is the most prevalent form of child abuse and features in 60% of serious case reviews into the death or serious injury of a child... What I find mind-boggling, is the fact that as a nation we have no overarching, strategic plan in place to address the issue.
It's absolutely right that the national media crawl all over what happened to Hamzah Khan. Anyone who cares about children will be horrified by the detail of his suffering and will see clearly many moments when he might have been noticed. But it's not enough simply to cry that "lessons must be learned". We must ensure that they are.
A survey of social workers published in Community Care today, in partnership with the NSPCC, reveals that just one in 10 were confident that children suffering neglect were being properly protected.