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If you're not getting the important things you need, or you're not being looked after properly by your parents or carers you might be experiencing neglect.

Neglect - Not being cared for properly

Image of a girl

Being looked after properly means that you have access to these things when you need them:

  • Clean, warm clothes or shoes
  • Comfort and affection
  • Enough to eat and drink
  • Protection and guidance to keep you away from dangerous situations
  • Somewhere warm and comfortable to sleep
  • Help when you're ill or you've been hurt
  • Support with getting your education.

Being looked after properly also means that you are not left alone for a long time, or have to spend a lot of time looking after other people in your family, without getting any support from an adult.

If any of this is happening to you, you might think that it's your fault. It isn't. Every child and young person has the right to be well looked after, but sometimes parents and carers are not able to manage this by themselves. If you want to talk about neglect, there are people who care - they will listen to you and help you.

How can I tell people I am being neglected if I’m too embarrassed?

Being neglected can make life difficult for you in lots of ways. It might be that it is hard to keep yourself or your clothes clean, that you are always hungry or tired, or that you never have any money.

You might not want to tell other people if you are worried about what they will think, but it is really important to remember that this is not your fault. There are people who are there to help when young people are neglected. They will have will have helped other children in similar situations, and they will just want to find ways to make things better for you.  

If you are worried about anything to do with neglect, you can always talk to ChildLine – we are here for you no matter how big or small your worry.

  • Will I get my parents into trouble if I tell someone about being neglected?

    There can be lots of different reasons why your parent or carer might be neglecting you. It might be that they are doing their best but just don’t have enough money. Maybe they have a problem with alcohol or drugs, or are having problems with their mental health. Whatever the reason, it is still your parents’ job to make sure you are properly looked after. There are people who can help your parents with whatever problems they are having, so it is important that they get the help they need.

  • I’m worried that someone I know is being neglected, but I don’t know what to say to them about it?

    It’s really good that you’re looking out for this person. Neglect is quite common (one in ten 11-17 year olds have experienced severe neglect)* so if you’re worried about someone, it’s a good idea to share how you feel. You shouldn’t have to deal with your worries by yourself.

    Young people are often more likely to notice when someone their age is being neglected. If you’re worried about someone, they might be at risk of neglect if you notice that often:

    - They are wearing clothes that don’t fit, or are dirty or smelly
    - They seem like they haven’t washed
    - They are hungry or asking for other people’s food 
    - They might often come to school with no lunch
    - Their parents don’t seem to know where they are or what they are doing
    - They don’t turn up for school, or arrive late. Or,
    - They don’t seem to have many friends
    - They get sent to school even when they are really unwell

    Maybe you could start by talking to an adult that you trust. You can always call ChildLine on 0800 1111 or contact us online, and tell us what’s on your mind if you don’t feel comfortable asking your friend about it. You could also look at our page on helping a friend for more ideas on how you could support them.

    *From: NSPCC (2011) 'Child abuse and neglect in the UK today' London: NSPCC

  • If I talk to someone, will I be taken into care?

    No, speaking to someone about being neglected doesn't mean that you'll automatically be taken into care. The police and social services are there to protect you from being neglected, but they will usually only put you in care if they think it’s too dangerous for you to live at home.

    There could be lots of different reasons why your parents or carers are finding it difficult to look after you. Social services are there to help your parents work out what’s going wrong and get them the support they need to make things better. A first step to your family getting this help is to talk to someone you trust such as a teacher or a friend's parent and tell them what is happening. If you feel that you don’t want to talk to anyone about what's happening or are too scared, you can talk to ChildLine and we can help.

  • What will happen to my brothers and sisters?

    If social services get involved then they will try really hard to find a way of helping your family all stay together if it is safe to do that. Sometimes Social Services will need brothers and sisters to live in different places in order to make sure that each child is looked after properly. They can't promise that you would all stay together but they will always try.

  • Someone in my family is ill or has a disability. I have to spend a lot of time helping them - does this mean I am neglected?

    A young carer is a young person who helps to look after a relative who has a disability or illness (including mental health problems), or a drug or alcohol problem. If you are a young carer, you should still have enough free time to do your school work, see friends or just chill out for a bit.

    Social services are there to help you and the person you are caring for, so that you don’t end up struggling. If it feels like you are not getting enough support, it is a good idea to ask for some help. You can always talk to ChildLine about anything that is worrying you.

  • I experienced neglect, things got better for a while, but now they are bad again. What can I do?

    If there are positive changes at home (for example, getting support from social services) things will often get better and everyone feels less worried.

    Unfortunately, sometimes things might start to get worse again after a while. If this happens to you, it’s really important to let people know what is going on. Neglect should never happen, however long it goes on for.

    If you think you might be experiencing neglect, it’s important to speak to someone who can help. You can always call ChildLine on 0800 1111 or contact us online.

Other sites that can help

Worried you or someone you know is being neglected? Find out more about neglect with Action for Children.
Action for Children

Neglect doesn't just happen to small children. has some common questions and answers for teenagers and young people about neglect.

Read advice and opinions from an Action for Children survey where children and young people spoke about neglect.
What young people say about neglect

How do I know if I'm being neglected?

Get confidential online advice from our counsellors.

Online chat

Call ChildLine

You can call ChildLine at any time on 0800 1111 to speak to a counsellor. Calls are free and confidential.

Call ChildLine

How did this help?

How did this page help you understand what neglect is?



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