What is Child Abuse or Neglect?

Child abuse is any action by another person – adult or child – that causes significant harm to a child. It can be physical, sexual or emotional, but can just as often be about a lack of love, care and attention - which is neglect. We know that neglect, whatever form it takes, can be just as damaging to a child as physical abuse.

An abused child will often experience more than one type of abuse, as well as other difficulties in their lives. It often happens over a period of time, rather than being a one-off event. And it can increasingly happen online.

Children and young people may be abused in a family, institutional or community setting; by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger.

Types of Child Abuse

Physical abuse: may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child, including by fabricating the symptoms of, or deliberately causing, ill health.

Emotional abuse: persistent emotional ill-treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person, age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children, causing children frequently to feel frightened, or the exploitation or corruption of children.

Sexual abuse: involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. They may include involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

Neglect: persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development, such as failing to provide adequate food, shelter & clothing, or neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.

Support and Resources

If a child is at immediate risk of significant harm, please dial 999.



Please call or email and follow up with a Multi-agency Referral Form.

What to do if you're worried a child is being abused? Advice for Practitioners (March, 2015)

Practitioner Advice


People abused in childhood

NAPAC Offers support to adult survivors of all types of childhood abuse, including physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect.

Print and display the 'Together, we can tackle child abuse' poster. (DfE)

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Poster: Abuse

Safe and Confident Space

Safe and confident place to provide information relating to crime -

100% anonymously.

Use the LSCP Threshold Chart and Guidance to identify the threshold of need  to guide decision-making. 

Print and distribute the LSCB's Neglect Campaign leaflet.

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Leaflet: Neglect


Practitioner Advice

When an agency comes into contact with a child who may have been exploited or trafficked.  Access information on notification and referral processes.