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Is the cost of living crisis causing more parents/guardians to be investigated for child neglect?

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Child arrangements and coronavirus

In our crime department we have opened 25% more files for people being investigated by the police for child neglect than in 2022. These cases involve parents or guardians being accused of not having enough food in their homes and dirty and cluttered surroundings.

There can be a number of reasons why there is an increase in people being investigated for this offence, for example an increase in cases could be as a result in a change in policing priorities however it is likely that the cost of living crisis will be playing its part.

What is child neglect?

S.1 Children and Young Persons Act 1933 states;

If any person who has attained the age of sixteen years and has responsibility for any child or young person under that age, wilfully assaults, ill-treats  (whether physically or otherwise, neglects, abandons, or exposes him, or causes or procures him to be assaulted, ill-treated  (whether physically or otherwise), neglected, abandoned, or exposed, in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health whether the suffering or injury is of a physical or a psychological nature), that person shall be guilty of an offence.”

S.1(2) defines neglect as;

a parent or other person legally liable to maintain a child or young person or the legal guardian of a child or young person, shall be deemed to have neglected him in a manner likely to cause injury to his health if he has failed to provide adequate food, clothing, medical aid or lodging for him, or if, having been unable otherwise to provide such food, clothing, medical aid or lodging, he has failed to take steps to procure it to be provided under the enactments applicable in that behalf”

If I am convicted of child neglect what sentence will I receive?

If the neglect took place on or after the 28th June 2022 the maximum sentence is one of 14 years imprisonment. When considering what sentence to impose the judge will consider a number of aggravating and mitigating factors including for example previous convictions, length of the neglect, mental health of the parent/guardian and steps the parent/guardian took to protect the victim.

When investigated by the police for this offence it is likely that a referral will be made to social services who will speak to the parent/guardian and carry out an assessment. It may be that social services remain involved with the family even when the criminal case has concluded.

What should I do if I am being investigated for child neglect?

Sadly it does not appear that the cost of living crisis is easing anytime soon particularly coming up to the winter months when people need to spend more to heat their homes. This is likely to cause more financial strain to families with children and may result in allegations of child neglect being made. If you are being investigated for this offence it is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. Our criminal defence solicitors have 150 years of combined experience successfully representing a number of people facing serious allegations. If you do require our assistance please do not hesitate to contact the department on 0161 696 6188 or complete an online enquiry form.

By Faye Dutson, associate