‘Poverty and Child Neglect – The Elephant in the Room?’

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There has been much discussion in the past few years about how social workers in England should respond to cases of child neglect, with calls to take more children into care and speed up the process towards adoption. In this paper it is argued that current dominant discourse framed in terms of individual pathology disregards the substantial body of knowledge on the effects of poverty and the complex inter-relationships between poverty and neglect; perpetuates the blaming of parents; and ultimately fails to serve the interests and promote the rights of many children and their families. Drawing upon the Capability Approach and the work of Lister, the paper concludes with an initial exploration of the development of a more sophisticated and multi-dimensional analysis of poverty and parenting that incorporates both psychological and social causes in ways that challenges the polarization of the debate on poverty and neglect.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalFamilies, Relationships and Societies
Early online date15 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • poverty
  • child neglect
  • Inequality
  • child protection
  • Capability Approach

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