CPD session: evidencing neglect in court

Notes for the session facilitator

This is the first post in a series of CPD sessions, helping you and your team to use Community Care Inform resources to keep your knowledge of a particular area up to date or improve practice.

You can use these activities either as one group or, with a larger team, dividing up to have discussions. They will work best if your team (or each small group) is familiar with one case where you all know there is chronic neglect.

This session uses extracts from our 2015 webinar on evidencing neglect in court. The speaker is Joanna Nicolas, a social worker who is now a child protection consultant and trainer and the chair is Camilla Pemberton, Community Care’s head of children’s social work content.

The clips from the webinar add up to half an hour in total – depending on the number of people and if you want to share ideas from different groups, you could allow one to one and a half hours for the session.

Links to further reading are provided at the end.

If you want to view the whole webinar (one hour) you can play it back here.

We very much welcome feedback on these sessions and if there are future topics you would like to see, so do let us know.

This session, based on Community Care’s webinar with Joanna Nicolas, looks at how to focus your thinking and practice to prepare for court work where you need to evidence neglect.

As a team or in small groups, think of a family that you all know where there is chronic neglect. You can then use that family and professional interaction with them to build the discussion and work through the issues.

1. Breaking it down – how do you present evidence?

In this first clip, Joanna challenges the idea that neglect is ‘the hardest category to evidence’ and suggests ways to break it down:


Take a case you are working on and try and identify specific examples of the different types of neglect involved in the case and your reasons for thinking they are involved.

Using the definitions of neglect in Working Together, set out exactly how the child is being neglected. DO NOT use the words inappropriate, appropriate, attachment, bond or love!

Remembering that most people working in the court arena will never have been near the sort of home that you are describing, in your group discuss how you are going to describe the home environment, the smell etc.

2. How should we be using research?

Here, Joanna offers some tips for avoiding the pitfalls that can come with quoting research and suggests some useful studies:


In court, you have to set out why you think, on the balance of probabilities, the neglect is going to continue and what the likely impact on the child is going to be. How could the Minnesota longitudinal study be useful for evidence?

Remembering what was said about capacity to change, discuss WHY you think the parents in the family you’re thinking of continue to neglect their children. Are you 100% confident you know whether it is because of limited mental ability, or motivation? What has led you to the conclusion you have come to? Do you all agree?

Use research that is often quoted by credible organisations, eg Action for Children, Barnardo’s, Community Care Inform, the NSPCC, Research in Practice, the Social Care Institute for Excellence.

3. Putting it into practice

Questions? Listen to questions that social workers attending the webinar asked.


A number of the questions were about working with other agencies, for example other professionals minimising risk or giving a clinical diagnosis when the social worker believes neglect in the main issue.

Keeping in mind what was said about what good working together looks like – that things get better for the child/children – discuss whether you have achieved this in multi-disciplinary working and if not, why not? What are the hurdles and the sticking points and what needs to be done to resolve those?

Further reading