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If you're not getting the important things you need at home, you could be being neglected.

Neglect  means not being looked after properly

Image of a girl

Being looked after properly means you have these things:

  • Clothes that are clean and warm and shoes that fit and keep you dry.
  • Enough to eat and drink.
  • Protection from dangerous situations.
  • Somewhere warm, dry and comfortable to sleep.
  • Help when you're ill or you've been hurt.
  • Affection from your parents or carers.
  • Support with your education.
  • Any other things you might need to have, like medications, when you need them.

Your parents or carers should make sure you have these things. You also shouldn't have to spend a lot of time looking after other people in your family without getting any support from an adult.

If you have a disability you should also be supported in whatever extra ways you need.

Am I being neglected?

It can be hard to work out if you’re being neglected. Sometimes parents may not even realise they are neglecting their children.

You might find it helpful to look at our list of common signs of neglect. Go through the questions and see if any of them apply to you.

If you're worried about anything to do with neglect, you can contact ChildLine for a chat with a counsellor any time. We are here for you no matter how big or small you think your worry is.

How can I tell people if I’m embarrassed?

If any of this is happening to you, you might think it's your fault. It isn't. Every child and young person has the right to be well looked after. Sometimes parents and carers can’t manage this by themselves. If you want to talk about what’s happening, you can always talk to ChildLine.

You might feel anxious and worried about what other people will think. You might have seen other young people at school, for example, who always seem to get whatever they need. It can feel embarrassing if you are not getting the things you need. It's really important to remember that you are not to blame for what is happening to you.

  • I think I am being neglected. Will I get my family into trouble if I tell someone?

    There could be lots of reasons why you are getting neglected. Your family may be doing their best but just not have enough money. Maybe someone who looks after you has a problem with alcohol or drugs, or maybe they are having problems with their physical or mental health.

    Whatever the reason, it is still their job to make sure you are properly looked after, even if sometimes they cannot do it. Sometimes social services come to talk to families where young people may be experiencing neglect. Social services are people who work for the government. They are there to help families with whatever problems they are having. If you're not sure how to contact social services, you can talk to a ChildLine counsellor. They can help answer any questions you have about social services.

  • How can I tell if someone I know is being neglected?

    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.

    Young people are often more likely to notice when someone their age is being neglected. If you’re worried about someone, you could see if you notice any of these things:

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

    You might also find our list of signs of neglect useful.

    It can be hard to decide how to support your friend if you notice any of these things. Maybe you could start by talking to an adult that you trust. You can always call ChildLine on 0800 1111 or contact us online. If don’t feel comfortable asking your friend about it you can tell us your worries. You could also look at our page on helping a friend for more ideas on how you could support them.

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

    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. They will only arrange for you to spend time in care if they think it’s too dangerous for you to live at home.

    There could be many 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. Often it can help if someone from outside your family can look at things to see where help and support is needed. 

    If you feel that you don’t want to talk to anyone you know about what's happening or are too scared, you can always talk to a ChildLine counsellor.

  • What will happen to my brothers and sisters?

    If social services get involved they will always try to find a way to help your family all stay together if it is safe to do that. If they need to move children away from their home, which isn't always needed, they will try to make sure you are together. Sometimes they might want brothers and sisters to live in different places so they can make sure each child is looked after properly. They can't promise that you will all stay in the same place but they will always try to keep a family together in their home as long as it is safe to do this.

  • I have to help an ill or disabled person in my family. Am I being neglected?

    A young carer is a young person who helps look after someone in their family 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. Being a young carer doesn't have to lead to being neglected. As a young carer you should still have access to all the things young people need, like food, clean clothes and affection.

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

  • Things got better for a while but now they are bad again. What can I do?

    If a family gets support and can make some changes, things will often get better and everyone feels less worried. Some parents and carers can find it hard to keep the changes going. Sometimes things might start to get worse again after a while.

    If this happens to you, remember that you got help before and you can get it again. 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.

  • My parents or carers don't spend time with me. Am I being neglected?

    This can sometimes be emotional neglect, especially if you don’t get to see your parents or carers often or spend time with them. If they don’t seem to notice changes in your life or times when you are hurt or ill, or show affection towards you such as hugging, you could be being emotionally neglected.

    This kind of neglect is a form of emotional abuse. Neglect can sometimes happen at the same time as other types of abuse.  If your parents or carers do not spend much time with you, say things to put you down, threaten or shout at you a lot, this could be abuse even if you do have enough food, clothes and a place to sleep. You can contact ChildLine to speak to a counsellor and talk through what you're experiencing.

Other sites that can help

Worried you or someone you know is being neglected?
Action for Children

Common questions and answers for teenagers and young people about neglect.

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

A place for young carers to get support, learn their rights, and share their feelings.
Young Carers (YCNet)

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

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