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Neglect - Religious AbuseNeglect in the context of religious abuse is most commonly seen in settings where the religious order has been entrusted with the care of children, yet without the funds to feed, clothe, and sustain the health of the child.

We have seen many cases of neglect in the Republic of Ireland where the Catholic Church operated the care of children in partnership with the Government. Starved of funds, the “institutions” failed to care properly for the children in their care.

The “abuse”, which is better termed as neglect, in isolation to other types of abuse, which also took place, arose from lack of money and poverty, caused by the government being unable/unwilling to provide sufficient funds to care for the children.

The absence of neglect depends, of course, upon the willingness/funds from central government/charities to inject enough money into the home, or so called in Ireland, “institutions”.

In Ireland, to get round the problem, the religious orders, instead of providing education for the children, put them to work making items which were then sold in order to provide funds for the institution.

The work the children were given was often hard, the wages low or non-existent, and the food of poor quality.

The effect was that the children went short of food, education, and lacked proper care. The effects of the abuse was therefore multi-factorial.

We dealt with a lot of the above types of case when the Residential Institutions Redress Board was still in existence, which was set up by the Irish Government to provide compensation for the victims of abuse in Irish Institutions between in or around 2005 to approximately 2012. Indeed we have a website set up specially for this type of work, which can be accessed here –


Neglect happens when a parent / carer fails to adequately provide for the needs of a child (beyond the constraints imposed by poverty)

A child may be left hungry or dirty, without adequate clothing, shelter, supervision, medical or health care.

A child may be put in danger or not protected from physical or emotional harm. They may not get the love, care and attention they need from their parents.

A child who’s neglected will often suffer from other abuse as well. Neglect is dangerous and can cause serious, long-term damage – even death.

One in 10 children have experienced neglect.

Whereas society has only begun to know more about sexual abuse of children more publicly since the 1990’s, neglect of children is an ancient harm, that was the pre-cursor to the child care system which has it origins in Victorian England, and has developed into the welfare state we have today.

Ultimately, a child who has been neglected by his/her parents, is often taken into the care of the state, who becomes its “corporate parent” until either they become an adult, or the care order is discharged.

Many of the cases we deal with arise from a failure by Local Authorities to properly care for children in care.

  • Sometimes children are knowingly left with abusive parents, usually because of a local authority’s desire to keep families together.
  • In other cases local authorities transfer children from one abusive environment to another, where, for instance they are subjected to intolerable conditions/abuse in whatever placement they are placed in, such as foster care, children’s home etc. See elsewhere in our site for more details of abuse in care.

What medical effects can neglect have upon a child?

  • Poor nutrition, and ultimately starvation
  • Diseases arising from low standards of hygiene such as skin sores, rashes, flea bites, scabies, or ringworm
  • untreated injuries, medical and dental issues
  • repeated accidental injuries caused by lack of supervision
  • recurring illnesses or infections
  • not been given required medicines and vaccination
  • poor muscle tone or prominent joints
  • skin sores, rashes, flea bites, scabies or ringworm
  • thin or swollen tummy
  • anaemia
  • tiredness
  • faltering weight or growth and not reaching developmental milestones (known as failure to thrive)
  • poor language, communication or social skills.

We thank NAPAC (National Association for Prevention of Abuse in Childhood) for allowing us to use this and other definitions.

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