06/02/2013 02:16 GMT | Updated 06/02/2013 02:37 GMT

Suspected Child Neglect Cases Rise But Many Feel Powerless To Act

Nine out of 10 teachers, police officers and social workers are regularly coming into contact with children they suspect are suffering from neglect, yet as many as 40% feel powerless to intervene, according to new research.

It reveals the number of members of the public calling for more support in reporting concerns has almost doubled in the past three years to 44%, while 14% of professionals have reported a rise in suspected child neglect over the past year.

child neglect

Dame Clare Tickell of Action for Children said the new child neglect figures were of 'grave concern'

Of these, nearly three-quarters (70%) believed a deterioration in parenting skills was a contributing factor to the increase, two-thirds (66%) greater poverty and more than half (55%) family breakdowns, the report by children's charity Action for Children said.

Those that feel unable to intervene suggested they find it difficult to do so due to a lack of available services, time and staffing, with 29% of professionals saying they feared spending cuts would make it more difficult to intervene in cases of child neglect.

The study found that a third (33%) of the general public who had concerns about a child did not tell anyone, mainly because they did not think they had enough evidence (34%) or were uncertain it was neglect (14%), while 15% said they were worried of the repercussions.

The charity said neglect is a factor in 60% of child deaths or serious injuries investigated by serious case reviews.

The report published on Wednesday is the most comprehensive current review into child neglect, the second in an annual series by the University of Stirling for Action for Children.

Almost 6,000 people including the general public, a range of professionals and 27 local authorities took part in the research through interviews, polls and focus groups between June and October last year.

Dame Clare Tickell, the charity's chief executive, said: "It is of grave concern that one in every 10 children could be suffering neglect.

"We know that early help has the potential to transform the lives of children and families, yet today's report tells us that the public aren't being given the know-how they need and professionals' best efforts are being hindered by stretched budgets and a lack of resources.

"With more and more families struggling, vulnerable children are falling through the cracks of a child protection system that is failing some of those who need it most - sometimes with tragic consequences."

The report will be launched on Wednesday at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Child Protection.

Action for Children is calling on the government to introduce a web-portal with a postcode function to enable the public to seek the most appropriate help at the earliest opportunity for children they are worried about in their local area and to meet its commitment to putting measures in place to support professionals to make timely decisions about whether to intervene.

Shadow minister for children and young people Lisa Nandy said: "It's shocking that so many more children are facing neglect and ill-treatment than this time last year.

"Over the last 12 months we've seen a sharp rise in factors that put stress on families, like poverty and homelessness.

"At the same time the Ggvernment is cutting funding to local councils, piling more pressure on social workers who are already struggling with record numbers of children being taken into care. These figures may just be the tip of the iceberg. This report should act as a wake-up call."

The Department for Education said: "We agree that we need to intervene early to help children at risk of abuse.

"The Government wants social workers to be more assertive with abusive and neglectful parents, and we are cutting back the bureaucracy to let them get on with the job of protecting vulnerable children.

"Where children are suffering abuse or neglect they should be taken into care more quickly."