Supporting Neglected Children

by Action for Children

No child should wish for food this Christmas.

They shouldn't, but unfortunately some will. The shocking reality is that many families across the UK are struggling to provide their children with enough food to eat, which is why we're launching this emergency appeal.

68% of Action for Children family support services are seeing children who are hungry and not getting regular meals.

Action for Children works with many children who don't eat regular hot meals. Their families are often facing some impossible choices like whether to pay their rent or heating bills, or pay for their weekly food shop. They can't do both. Can you imagine having to make such a decision?

There are vulnerable children across the UK who are facing a very bleak Christmas this year. They are hungry and worried, and desperately need your help.

With your support we can provide struggling families with emergency food parcels, making sure they have regular meals to eat. A gift of just £10 could pay for a week of hot meals for a hungry child, or help us to run breakfast clubs so children can get a healthy start to their day.

Ryan’s story;                                                                                                                              

When five-year-old Ryan's dad lost his job, the family didn't know where to turn. Ryan's mum was heavily pregnant and they were living in temporary accommodation. They had no furniture and were sleeping on bare mattresses.

Ryan and his brother and sister stopped asking for toys and sweets - in fact they stopped asking for anything. Although he was only five, Ryan knew all too well that his parents were very sad, and he was growing up too fast.

Mum felt ashamed about asking for help, but when she came to an Action for Children project she broke down and told us everything. A few days later, a staff member came round to the family home with two weeks' worth of shopping. When they put the bags on the table, Ryan and his siblings cried with happiness at how much food there was.

Even after that, Ryan never expected he'd be celebrating Christmas that year. His parents had little money for food, let alone presents. So when Action for Children arrived with gifts for the children, they couldn't believe it. Ryan's little brother Harry thought Father Christmas had visited - and in a way he had!

Ryan's support worker Sue worked with Ryan's mum and dad to get them the help they needed. From buying credit for Mum's phone, to providing food parcels and intensive support, Action for Children staff supported the family every step of the way. They even went to the children's school and explained the family's situation to their teachers.

This Christmas will be a much happier one for Ryan and his family. Action for Children continue to work with him, his parents and his school to turn his life around, and he's now a happy, healthy little boy.

Please, make a donation today and help us to be there for families like Ryan’s this Christmas.


The most vulnerable families are most affected
The most vulnerable families are most affected

Our new report, 'In the eye of the storm: Britain's forgotten children and families' highlights the need to protect children from the impact of austerity measures and start a national debate on the needs of children.

This research has been conducted by Landman Economics, on behalf of Action for Children, the Children's Society and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

By joining forces we aim to increase our influence on government and kick-start a national debate across as many audiences as possible. As well as the political implications, working in partnership has also enabled us to foster good working relationships with these highly reputable charities.

Key findings

The research shows that the most vulnerable families and their children are being most heavily affected by changes to the tax and benefits system, as well as being hit by spending cuts affecting public services. The number of children living in vulnerable families is also set to rise. Here are some of the main findings from the research:

  • Families with four or more vulnerabilities are set to lose around 8% of their net income from the tax and benefit changes, compared to less than 5% for families with no vulnerabilities.
  • Combining the changes to the tax and benefits system with spending cuts to public services shows that families with 5 or more vulnerabilities lose approximately £3,000 per year.
  • Between 2008 and 2015 it is estimated that the number of families with five or more vulnerabilities will increase from 130,000 to 150,000 - an increase of just over 14%. The number of children living in families with five or more vulnerabilities is set to rise by 54,000 to 365,000, an increase of around 17%.
  • Taking a slightly wider definition of vulnerability, the number of children living in families with four or more vulnerabilities is set to rise from 885,000 in 2008 to just over one million by 2015, also an increase of 17%.
  • Particularly worrying is the projected increase in the number of children living in extremely vulnerable families - families with six or seven different risk factors. Although currently fewer than 50,000, the number of children living in extremely vulnerable families is set to double by 2015 to 96,000.

Recommendations to government

We are using these findings to make recommendations to the government.  We would like the government to:

  • Re-think how to better protect children from the impact of the recession and the resulting austerity measures. A strategic approach should not start and end with a single unit or government department, but instead join up policies between health, education, social care, tax and benefits, employment and housing to ensure that the most vulnerable children are better protected. It should also address the full range of vulnerabilities that children and families face, rather than be limited to certain types of disadvantage.
  • Assess the impact on vulnerable children and families of any further changes to public spending, including any reforms to the tax and benefits system, in order to prevent unintended consequences.
  • Commit to monitoring changes to the number of vulnerable children and families in Britain, and report on the impact of public policy decisions on them.

How this fits in with our other policy work

This research strengthens our campaign to hold governments to account for the impact their decisions have on disadvantaged children. These findings will feed into Red Book 2012 and will provide us with an opportunity to meet with policy makers and influence their decision making. 


Action for Children - celebration
Action for Children - celebration

Keeping children safe: The case for reforming the law on child neglect

Neglect is the most common form of child abuse, affecting up to 1 in 10 children in the UK. It is extremely damaging to children, and has effects that can last a lifetime.

The Children and Young Persons Act 1933, which applies to England and Wales, is no longer fit for purpose. This is because:

  • It fails to reflect the full range of harm neglected children suffer
  • It leaves parents unclear about their responsibilities towards children
  • Rather than trying to improve parenting, it only seeks to punish parents after neglect has happened

Changing the law on child neglect would help keep children safe.

This is why we are asking the Government to review the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.

Neglect is extremely damaging to children. Of all forms of abuse, neglect can have some of the worst and most long-term effects on the brain, physical development, behaviour, educational achievement and emotional wellbeing.

It robs children of the childhood they deserve and leaves broken families, dashed aspirations and misery in its wake.

You can help by:



Studies suggest there are 1.5 million neglected children in the UK and the long summer holidays can lead to an increase in the problems that they face

Neglect is a problem that is on your doorstep

Our new YouGov poll of over 2000 parents shows that it's an issue that needs tackling, especially during the summer break:

  • 1 in 4 parents fear for neglected children during the school holidays
  • 26% said children are more likely to be neglected during the summer
  • 23% worried that their children's friends were being neglected during the summer holidays
  • 14% fed a child, other than their own, during the school holidays because they weren't sure they were being fed properly at home

It's time we all took notice.

You can help by:



A few facts about Neglect

Child neglect is an ongoing failure to provide the right care and attention to a child's needs, including enough food, clean clothes, safety and security, warmth and love. Here are some facts about neglect in the UK:


  • Serious neglect can kill
  • In the UK, neglect is the most common form of child abuse
  • 1/3 of police and social workers feel "powerless" to stop it
  • 1 million neglected children have parents who were also victims of childhood neglect
  • Neglect can lead to lonelinessisolation, low self-esteem and poor health

The signs of neglect

Neglect can sometimes have obvious signs, though often it can take years for emotional and psychological symptoms to become apparent. These are a few signs which could indicate a child is being neglected:

  • A child (under 16) who regularly has to look after themselves alone
  • Regularly not having clean clothes to wear or enough to eat
  • A lack of medical or dental attention
  • Living in dangerous conditions, for example around drugs
  • A child who exhibits anger, anti-social behaviour, aggression or self harm

Why does it happen?

It is often not easy to pinpoint one specific reason why child neglect happens, but  there are some more common problems among adult carers that are associated with neglect of children. These include:

  • Domestic violence
  • Parental mental health problems
  • Substance abuse, for example alcoholism
  • Parents with their own personal history of child neglect

Your donations are being used across our projects, helping us tackle child neglect and make the lives of the children and young people that we work with, better.


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Organization Information

Action for Children

Location: Watford - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Shurron Phull
London, London United Kingdom

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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