Social Work Now, Issue 48, pages 18-24.
Neglect is a serious form of child maltreatment that is at least as damaging as physical or sexual abuse in the long term (Gilbert et al, 2009b). As neglect can be an act/acts of omission, it is less tangible and harder to define. Persistently failing to meet children’s needs can set in motion a cascade of negative impacts that may result in reduced quality of life, severe mental and physical illness, and in some cases premature death. Despite the seriousness of neglect, it has received less attention and there is an observable societal phenomenon of “neglect of neglect” (McSherry, 2007).
In 2010 Dr Janine Mardani undertook a public health assessment of the evidence, current approach and best practice guidance on preventing child neglect in New Zealand and this paper outlines the key findings from this report. The report (Mardani, 2010) was commissioned by the Children’s Commissioner to document the nature and consequences of child neglect; describe the prevalence of neglect in New Zealand; summarise government agencies’ responses to neglect; compare current responses to a best practice response; and formulate recommendations for strengthening the prevention of recurrent neglect in New Zealand.
The report focuses on policy, research and practice to prevent the occurrence and recurrence of neglect. The report also focuses on responses made by key government agencies and does not consider interventions by other organisations, family and whānau, friends, or the public.