The continual theme of the Children Act is ‘The Welfare of the child is paramount’. It gives everyone involved in the care of the children a responsibility for the protection of those children.
Child abuse is any action by another person/adult/child that causes significant harm to a child. It can be physical, sexual or emotional but just as often be lack of love, care and attention. Abused children often experience more than one type of abuse as well as other difficulties in their lives. It often happens over a period of time rather than a one off event. It can happen online too. Child abuse is generally defined as:-
Physical Abuse – Physical abuse is deliberately hurting a child causing injuries such as bruises, broken bokes, burns or cuts.
Emotional Abuse – Emotional abuse is the ongoing emotional maltreatment of a child. It is sometimes called psychological abuse and can seriously damage a child’s emotional health and development. Emotional abuse can involve deliberately trying to scare or humiliate a child or isolating or ignoring them.
Sexual Abuse – A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This doesn’t have to be physical contact and it can happen online.
Child Sexual Exploitation – Child sexual exploitation is a type of sexual abuse in which children are sexually exploited for money, power or status.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) – Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the partial or total removal or external female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
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.
Domestic – Witnessing domestic abuse is child abuse and teenagers can suffer domestic abuse in their relationships.
Online Abuse – Online abuse is any type of abuse that happens on the web, whether through social networks, playing online games or using mobile phones.
Bullying and cyberbullying – Bullying can happen anywhere – at school, at home or online. It’s usually repeated over a long period of time and can hurt a child both physically and emotionally.
Child Trafficking – Child trafficking is a type of abuse where children are recruited, moved or transported and then exploited, forced to work or sold.
Grooming – Children and young people can be groomed online or in the real world, by and stranger or someone they know – a family member, friend or professional.
Harmful Sexual Behaviour – Children and young people who develop harmful sexual behaviour harm themselves and others. Harmful sexual behaviour includes using sexually explicit words or phrases, inappropriate touching, using sexual violence or threats, full penetrative sex with other children or adults. Sexual behaviour is also considered harmful if one of the children is much older – particularly if there is more than two years difference in age or if one of the children is pre-pubescent and the other isn’t. However a younger child can abuse an older child, particularly if they have power over them – for example if the older child is disabled.
Background factors influencing the Vulnerability of Children:-
- Social exclusion, for example poverty, racism, unsuitable housing, food or education
- Domestic violence
- Mental ill health in a parent/carer
- Drug and alcohol misuse
- Disabled children may be unable to communicate their problems
If you have some concerns, or the child raises issues of concern with you:-
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 he/she 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
- Do not ‘lead’ the child in any way
- Do not stop them from freely recalling events
You must inform your Group Supporter/Area Coordinator immediately who will inform the Operations Chairman and the Project’s Child Protection Officer. The Area Coordinator will contact Children’s Services and in conjunction with the Trustee or the Project’s Child Protection Officer, will carefully monitor the situation. The contact details are on the rear of your ID card, the contact section of the Guidelines and the A5 document wallet we have provided for you to keep in the glove box of your car.
For support: Family Information Service provides information for families, young people and professionals working with families: 01926 742274.
For Urgent Concerns:
If you have an urgent child protection concern and need to get in touch with MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub) call them on 01926 414144. Lines are open: Monday to Thursday 8.30am-5.30pm and Friday 8.30am-5.00pm.
Following this, the Area Coordinator may need to complete and return a Multi Agency Referral Form. https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/safeguardingreferral
Out of Hours:
If you need to get in touch out of office hours, please contact the Emergency Duty Team on 01926 886922.
If you think a child is at immediate risk, contact the Police on 999.
The Older Friend will receive the full support of the above Project members and will be involved with, and kept abreast of, developments as far as possible.
In the event you suspect abuse or abuse is alleged, try to record as soon as possible the information you have. 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.
- Names, addresses, phone numbers etc.
- When you were aware of the incident and where you were
- What was said or what you saw
- When the abuse might have occurred and where it might have happened
- Who might have been involved
- Was there any actual evidence – bruising, burns, 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 the child
- Adults have a duty to take action
- The person reporting the concern will not have to cope alone
- Confidentiality is of paramount importance
- Your responsibility is to report your serious concerns to MASH (and The Project)
Allegations against Older Friends
Any allegations made against Older Friends should be reported immediately to the Group Supporter and Area Coordinator who will inform the Safeguarding Officer. The Safeguarding Officer will report it to the Warwickshire LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) and Local Authority team. The allegation must not be discussed with the Older Friend although this course of action should be explained to them. A statement will be taken from the O/F in response to any allegations made by the Y/F against the O/F too.
Action will be in accordance with the current requirements of the Disclosure and Barring Service, and referrals may need to be made to this service and will be done in conjunction with the Area Coordinator and Child Protection representatives within The Project or Trustees.
A Safeguarding Committee compromising of; Chair of Trustees, Vice Chair of Trustees (Safeguarding Officer), Chair of Operations (DBS Manager) and Senior Management with responsibility for safeguarding within the Local Authority oversee all aspects of safeguarding with the Friendship Project.
Safeguarding has always been of central importance in the work of the Friendship Project.
All users of the Project but, in particular, the children and families that it serves, must have confidence in its safeguarding practice. We must be able to demonstrate that the Project’s safeguarding procedures are robust and fit for purpose and in order to do this, periodic reviews are being undertaken with feedback sought from the parent/carer as well as from the Younger Friends themselves.