Parents who are occasionally abrupt with their children may be guilty of 'mild neglect', says NSPCC

·4-min read
Mother scolding son in living room - takasuu
Mother scolding son in living room - takasuu

Parents who are occasionally abrupt with their children and hold low-key celebrations may be guilty of ‘mild neglect’, according to NSPCC guidance.

Child protection social workers use the Graded Care Profile 2 (GCP2) to score parents they suspect of neglecting their children on a scale of one to five, with one being the best and five the worst.

The guidance, seen by the Telegraph, says an overall score of three suggests ‘mild neglect’, which may warrant a ‘targeted short-term intervention’ by the local authority or agency.

Homes that need “slight repair” in some areas or are “reasonably clean most of the time, with some redecoration needed”, score three. Being less responsive to a child when they are being difficult, and celebrating personal and seasonal events ‘in a low key fashion’ also earns this grade as the child’s needs are not always being met.

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Other behaviours which score three include being mostly warm and responsive to your child but "occasionally flat, brisk or abrupt, when burdened with problems".

To score a one, events must be "celebrated with lots of enthusiasm and elaborate preparations" and the parent must usually initiate interaction with the child more than the other way around.

Parents who talk about their child with delight, "praise them spontaneously" and give them a "generous emotional reward for any achievement" score a one but those who limit praise, even if they usually agree with others’, score a three.

Ratings 'may not distinguish between parents on low incomes and those neglecting their children' 

The NSPCC says the scores must be used in context, taking into account the reasons for poor care and the impact on a particular child, but concerns have been raised over the “middle-class” values in the guidance.

Andy Bilson, emeritus professor of social work at the University of Central Lancashire and associate director of The Centre for Children and Young People’s Participation, said: "I am concerned that the rating questions in the GCP2 tool appear to be based on very middle-class parenting values and may not distinguish between parents on low incomes or in poor housing conditions from those neglecting their children."

Susan Hawkes, a senior lecturer in social work at the University of Wolverhampton, said she was “very concerned” by the GCP2 saying: “We take too many children into care and social workers need to talk about this stuff without getting defensive.”

The NSPCC tweeted in January 2021 that 18,000 children’s care practitioners had received GCP2 training since its launch five years ago and it was in use in over 80 sites across the UK.

Birmingham City Council told the Telegraph use of the GCP2 was a key element of its prevention and reduction of neglect strategy, while nearby Sandwell said GCP2 is also used in services across the area.

York City Council said: “It can provide measurable outcomes and evidence if there has been improvement or a decline in the care provided for a child. It is a tool that is accessible to family members through the use of language, colours and numbers.”

Dozens of children’s services departments using scoresheet 

The NSPCC has sold the scoresheet to dozens of children’s services departments at a cost of up to £13,500 for the licence and training.

In June an initial report from the Independent Review of Social Care, said social services spend too much time investigating struggling families rather than helping them.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “The Graded Care Profile 2 is an evidence-based tool, which has been tested by academics and practitioners, that helps professionals to make an assessment by measuring whether the needs of the child are being met whilst also using their professional judgement.

“By identifying needs in this way, professionals can ensure children and families are getting the support they need.

“Professionals receive extensive training to be able to use the series of indicators in the tool to measure a combination of physical, emotional and developmental care and safety then use their expertise, balance and context to keep children and young people safe from harm.”

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