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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/practice-approach/practice-standards/ensure-safety-and-wellbeing/definitions-of-abuse-neglect-and-harm/neglect/
Printed: 14/06/2024
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Last updated: 01/04/2019


Neglect is when the basic needs of te tamaiti are not met.

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This content will be strengthened so it more completely reflects our commitment to practice framed by te Tiriti o Waitangi, based on a mana-enhancing paradigm for practice, and drawing from ​Te Ao Māori principles of oranga to support mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. We each need to consider how we can apply these principles to our practice when reading this content. The following resources provide support:
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What it is

Neglect can be:

  • physical neglect — not providing the necessities of life such as adequate shelter, food and clothing
  • emotional neglect — not providing comfort, attention and love
  • neglectful supervision — leaving tamariki without someone safe looking after them
  • medical neglect — not taking care of health needs
  • educational neglect — allowing truancy, failure to enrol in education, or inattention to education needs.

Neglect could happen once or it could happen regularly.

Possible signs

These signs are clues that alert us that neglect may have happened and that a tamaiti may need help or protection. However, they are not conclusive evidence of neglect and there may be instances of neglect where there are no obvious signs.

Signs can be found on their own or in various combinations or clusters.

Physical signs

Te tamaiti:

  • dresses inappropriately for the season or the weather
  • is often extremely dirty and unwashed
  • has severe nappy rash or other persistent skin disorders that are untreated
  • is inadequately supervised or left unattended frequently or for long periods
  • may be left in the care of an inappropriate adult
  • does not receive adequate medical or dental care
  • is malnourished (this can be underweight or overweight)
  • lacks adequate shelter.

Behavioural signs

Te tamaiti:

  • has severe developmental lags without an obvious physical cause
  • displays a lack of attachment to parents or caregivers
  • displays indiscriminate attachment to other adults
  • has poor school attendance and performance
  • is demanding of affection and attention
  • engages in risk-taking behaviour, such as drug and alcohol abuse
  • has poor social skills
  • has no understanding of basic hygiene.

It may help to check the expected age and developmental stages for te tamaiti. If their behaviour is inconsistent with their range, you should ask more questions.

Ages and developmental stages