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What is abuse and neglect?

Every child has the right to be kept safe from all forms of abuse that injure them either physically or emotionally. It is not always obvious to know what constitutes abuse. These are some simple definitions.

Neglect occurs when adults fail to meet the child’s essential needs such as providing adequate shelter, food, warmth, clothing, hygiene and medical care. It also includes leaving children who cannot look after themselves alone or without proper supervision.

Physical abuse is when a person injures/harms a child, or does not knowingly prevent it. For example the use of excessive force, hitting, squeezing, shaking, burning, biting, suffocating and drowning. It also includes allowing inappropriate use of drugs, medication or alcohol by children.

Sexual abuse is when a child is forced to take part in a sexual activity, using the child to satisfy sexual desires. It is also an abuse to allow children access to obscene DVDs, books and other material.

Emotional abuse occurs when adults persistently fail to show the child love and affection, or they may threaten, shout or taunt, or the child may witness domestic violence, causing the child to lose confidence, become nervous or withdrawn.

If you are worried about a child please see our Reporting a Concern page

For further information on what to do if you’re worried about a child, please see the guidance below