A study of serious case reviews between 2016 and 2018: what are the key barriers for social workers in identifying and responding to child neglect?

Linda Solem, Clive Diaz, Lauren Hill - Journal of Children's Services



Child neglect is the most common form of maltreatment but is also one of the most complex. Neglect has a long-term negative impact on children and young people’s development and wellbeing. This study examined 20 recent serious case reviews that had taken place in England where neglect was a feature. The purpose of this study is sought to explore the barriers, which exist for social workers in England in identifying and responding to neglect in a timely, appropriate and effective manner.


Thematic analysis identified four main themes that were likely to impact upon effective interventions.


Challenges in terms of the definition of neglect and how to identify it; the use of neglect toolkits; the impact of organisational cultures on practice and the voice of the child.


In spite of its prevalence there is a dearth of literature relating specifically to the issue of neglect. There is a need for further research to be undertaken because of the acknowledged, seriousness and potential longstanding negative impact on children even into adulthood (Horwath, 2013). It is hoped that this study provides a useful insight into some of the barriers that exist for social workers in working effectively with children and families for whom neglect is an issue.