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Knowing the signs of neglect

Neglect can be difficult to identify, but there are a number of signs you can look out for.


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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Neglect is when an adult fails to meet a child or young person's basic needs. This can be difficult to identify, and recognising one of the signs of neglect does not necessarily mean you are being neglected. However, if you recognise a number of these signs, and if it is something that has been happening on an ongoing basis almost all the time, then there could be a serious problem.

If you or someone you know think there is a case of neglect, you can contact the ISPCC's support line on 01-6767960 or get in touch with your local TUSLA Duty Social worker

If you are a young person and you need someone to talk to, you can call Childline 24 hours a day on 1800 66 66 66.

Signs of neglect

  • You sometimes come home and find there’s no food.
  • Your parents never bring you to the doctor even if you feel seriously ill.
  • You’re often left alone for a long time (not just when your mother has gone shopping) and don’t know where your parents are or don’t know when they will return.
  • You spend a lot of time minding younger brothers or sisters because your parents don’t want to do it, aren’t able to, or aren’t there to do it. (You’re probably expected to help mind them sometimes but it shouldn’t be all the time).
  • You don’t have a warm jacket in winter or you grow out of your clothes and they are not replaced with new clothes that fit. 
  • You have no heating at home/
  • There is a lack of furniture in your home, such as no bed and/or bedding (sheets, duvet) to sleep in.
  • Your clothes are often dirty and unwashed.
  • You rarely have breakfast or lunch, and you are always hungry.
  • You always eat unhealthy food, such as chips every evening, instead of proper dinners.
  • You feel like you have difficulty communicating with other people.

What to do if you think you or someone you know is being neglected

  • Talk to someone you trust about what's going on and let them know your concerns.
  • Contact your local TUSLA duty social worker to report the case of neglect.
  • It can be very difficult to speak about what’s happening. If you can’t tell anyone that you know, you can talk to Childline, in confidence, on 1800 66 66 66.
  • Sometimes the person neglecting you will threaten to harm you if you tell anyone what’s happening. This is a way of frightening you into silence. If you tell the Gardaí or social worker they can help to make arrangements that you and other family members are safe from harm.
  • Telling someone you’re being abused or neglected doesn’t mean that you’ll be taken away from your family. Social services will try to work out a situation that means you are safe from abuse, where they can support your family to ensure your needs are met but still remain with your family.
  • Even after the abuse has stopped you might have emotional or self-confidence problems. You can visit a counsellor to help you cope with your feelings.
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Published January 14th, 2013
Last updated April 17th, 2018
Tags neglect abuse wellbeing
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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