— Skylight Trust

Neglect is a form of abuse. It happens when someone with responsibility for providing care and protection for vulnerable individuals, fails to do so.​

When a child, teen, older person, or anyone vulnerable due to illness or disability is neglected, the effects can be far reaching. Neglect is often hidden and done secretly. Sometimes other people do become aware of a pattern of neglect that is happening. If they do, they need to take action, so the neglect is stopped.

Every situation is different, but common examples of neglect include:

  • not providing enough nutritious food or drink - (may cause weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, toileting issues, illness)
  • not providing correct prescribed medication - (may be under or over medicated, causing health complications or drowsiness)
  • lack of help with basic needs for hygiene, toileting, and personal care - (may remain unwashed and dirty, smell strongly, develop rashes or abrasions, have lice, develop tooth decay, necessary aids may be withheld, e.g. glasses, hearing aids, walking supports, or if immobile, may develop pressure sores)
  • becoming ill more often, be left untreated and become more unwell - (may especially develop ongoing respiratory illnesses, or hypothermia)
  • may be a victim of violence and injured, but left untreated - (injuries may not heal properly affecting overall health or mobility)
  • left alone and/or without social contact or supervision for long periods of time - ( may not use or develop social skills, lacks daily input and stimulation, lonely, anxious, unsafe)
  • not providing a person with kindness, affection, emotional security, or support - (may experience ongoing insults, bullying, be exposed to traumatic events, or be ignored and not spoken to)
  • inadequate clothing or shoes - (may become cold or too hot, be dirty, smell)
  • inadequate living environment - (may be dirty, too cold or too hot, mouldy, infested with lice or vermin, or unsafe).

Neglect can be intentional and deliberate. The person doing this, may refuse to let anyone else provide better support or resources for whoever is in their care, even if it’s offered.

However, neglect can also sometimes be unintentional. For example, when parents/carers don’t have the knowledge or skills to care for someone who is dependent on them. Or at times a family’s poverty might prevent parents/carers from providing for their children's needs. They want to, but can’t.

The negative impact of neglect on vulnerable children, teens or adult is enormous. Without safety and the necessities of life being provided for, they are likely to suffer both short and long-term side effects. Those neglected are at risk of developing social, mental, emotional, behavioural and health problems. For example, becoming sick, getting physical injuries, losing self-esteem and confidence, developing high anxiety, depression, or other mental illness, having poor social skills, or displaying disruptive behaviour. In some extreme cases, neglect can cause death. Children and teens might also have poor or no school attendance and poor educational performance.

What indicates that neglect may be happening?

Indications of child/teen neglect:

The Ministry of Health-abuse and neglect

Child Matters-abuse and neglect 

Indications of elder or vulnerable adult neglect:

Age Concern

Association of NZ Social Workers-Adult Abuse

What to do

When neglect is noticed, taking some action as soon as possible is very important.

If it’s a child or teen:  Identify Abuse

If it’s elder or vulnerable adult : Report Abuse

If you ever think someone is in immediate danger, call the Police.

Resources Available at Skylight

Skylight is here to help you through difficult times. We can assist you in a variety of ways with information appropriate for your situation. You are welcome to visit us and receive free information and a support pack from our resource centre and borrow books from the specialist library. We also facilitate Professional Development training and offer Counselling support services for children, young people, family/whānau and individuals who are experiencing tough times.

Request a Pack Library

Online Shop

Our online shop features Skylight's own publications and other specialist titles from New Zealand and around the world. Search titles, keywords or category headings by clicking the shop button.