The continual theme of the Children Act is that the welfare of the child is paramount. It gives everyone involved in the care of the child a responsibility for the protection of those children.
Child abuse is generally divided into 4 categories:
- Physical Abuse. Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, suffocating, drowning, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer feigns the symptoms of, or deliberately causes ill health to a child they are looking after.
- Emotional Abuse. Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill treatment of a child as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may involve causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children.
- Sexual Abuse. Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of, or in agreement with, what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative (e.g. rape and buggery) or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.
- Neglect. Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs. It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, failing to protect a child from physical or mental harm or danger, or the failure to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.
Background factors influencing the Vulnerability of Children:-
- Social exclusion e.g., poverty, racism, unsuitable housing, food or education.
- Domestic violence.
- Mental ill health in a parent/carers.
- Drug and alcohol misuse.
- Disabled children may be unable to communicate their problems.
As a volunteer for the Friendship Project for Children, you are in a good position to notice changes in social behaviour or worrying marks or bruises and to hear children talking about things which may give cause for alarm. Recognising and coping with child abuse is a very stressful experience, but your first responsibility is to the child. It is not safe to assume that someone else will take action.
If a child talks spontaneously of experiences which give rise to concern you should:-
- Explain to the child that if they are about to disclose information which leads you to believe she/he is being abused you will be unable to keep it confidential.
- Listen to the child. Do not question him/her. Be aware that your reactions (particularly of disapproval) may stop the child from continuing with their disclosure.
- It is essential you do not lead the child in any way.
- Do not stop them from freely recalling events.
- Inform your Group Supporter/Area Co-ordinator immediately who will inform the Operations Manager and Chairman.
- Inform the Duty Social Worker immediately for the area in which the child lives.
- The Area Co-ordinator/Operations Manager will contact Children’s Services and in conjunction with the Chairman, will carefully monitor the situation.
- The Older Friend will receive the full support of the above Project Members and will be involved with and kept abreast of developments.
- In the event you suspect abuse or abuse is alleged, try to record as soon as possible the information you have been given. However, it is very possible you will not have all the information and you should not question the child, but some information or explanation may have been given.
- Please note names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. When you were made aware of the incident and where you were, what was said or what you saw, when the abuse might have occurred, where it might have happened and who might have been involved, was there any actual evidence, bruising, burns, or soreness?
- Children’s Services with other Agencies have teams who are experienced in dealing with allegations of child abuse. It is essential they handle the matter and you do not take any action that could prejudice or interfere with their investigation. Your responsibility is to report.
- The primary concern is to the child.
- Adults have a duty to take action.
- The person reporting the concern will not have to cope alone.
- Confidentiality is of the utmost importance.
- Your responsibility is to report your concerns to Children’s Services (and the Project).
Allegations against Older Friends:
- Allegations made against Older Friends (fictitious or otherwise) should be reported immediately to the Group Supporter and Area Co-ordinator. They will in turn report it to the Warwickshire L.A.D.O. (Local Authority Disclosure Officer). The allegation must not be discussed with the Older Friend, although this course of action should be explained to them.
- Area Co-ordinators will receive training in child abuse procedures from the Chairman who is the Child Protection Officer for the Project. They must also have the background knowledge of the Warwickshire Safeguarding Children Board (WSCB) Interagency Child Protection Procedures (Blue Book).
- The Project is an Associate Member of the Warwickshire Safeguarding Children Board.
- Training materials gained from membership of the WSCB are used to support the work of the project. Dr Vic Tuck (WSCB Development Officer) is the bespoke external consultant and trainer of the project.
- The Chairman is a member of the Strategic and Communications sub-group of the WSCB.