A charity has warned against cuts to child protection services after a survey revealed youngsters as young as eight have seen signs of neglect among their peers.
Nearly two thirds of children (61%) have seen others in their classrooms, playgrounds or neighbourhoods who show key signs of neglect, such as being hungry or dirty, according to a poll for Action for Children.
Of those questioned, 41% said they knew of children who were often late or missing from school, 34% knew of children who didn't seem to have any friends, and 26% knew of children whose parents did not seem to know what they were doing.
The ICM poll of more than 3,000 eight to 12 year olds also found 25% knew of children whose clothes did not fit or were old and smelly, 19% knew of children who were unwashed or often dirty and 7% knew of children who said they did not get meals at home.
Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of Action for Children, said: "Child neglect is a real danger to children if it is not tackled early on. It's worrying that children as young as eight are spotting these issues in other children, confirming our fears that suspected cases of child neglect could be slipping through the net.
"The research suggests that too many children are lonely, dirty, hungry and possibly not getting the love and basic care that they deserve.
"What are seemingly small problems can accumulate with tragic consequences.
"We must raise awareness and make sure that the resources are there to help children as early as possible to tackle child neglect and prevent it from cascading down generations."
Almost half (46%) of respondents said the neglected children were bullied by their peers, while 48% said they were ignored, and 40% said other children would be mean to them or laugh at them. One in five (20%) of those asked said they too would ignore them.
The charity urged the Coalition to safeguard early intervention services from spending cuts in the Comprehensive Spending Review.