Further Information (Child Protection)
What is Child Abuse?
The Children Act 1989 refers to ‘Significant Harm’ rather than abuse. However, abuse is any behaviour, action or inaction, which significantly harms the physical and/or emotional development of a child. A child may be abused by parents, other relatives or carers, professionals and other children, and can occur in any family, in any area of society, regardless of social class or geographical location.
Abuse falls into four main categories. The following definitions are from Working Together to Safeguard Children 2006.
Physical Abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to the child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer feigns the symptoms of, or deliberately induces injury in a child.
Emotional Abuse is the persistent emotional ill-treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse affects 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 feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. May include interactions beyond the child’s developmental ability, overprotection, limitation of exploration or learning, prevention of normal social interaction. Seeing or hearing ill-treatment of another, serious bullying causing children to frequently feel frightened or in danger, or exploitation and corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill-treatment of a child, although it may occur alone.
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 what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative (i.e. rape or buggery or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or the production of, pornographic material, or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. It may occur in pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child is born it may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, failing to protect a child from physical harm or danger, failure to ensure adequate supervision including the use of inadequate care-takers 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. The red leaflet ‘Child Protection Guidelines for Early Years’ which describes signs and symptoms of abuse is on display on the main notice board and the staff notice board.
What May Give Cause for Concern?
- Bruising on parts of the body which do not usually get bruised accidentally, e.g. around the eyes, behind the ears, back of the legs, stomach, chest, cheek and mouth (especially in a young baby), etc.
- Any bruising or injury to a very young immobile baby.
- Burns or scalds.
- Any injuries or swellings, which do not have a plausible explanation.
- Faltering growth, weight loss and low development.
- Unusual lethargy.
- Any sudden uncharacteristic change in behaviour, e.g. child becomes either very aggressive or withdrawn.
- A child whose play and language indicates a sexual knowledge beyond his/her years.
- A child who flinches away from sudden movement.
- A child who gives over rehearsed answers to explain how his/her injuries were caused.
- An accumulation of a number of minor injuries and/or concerns.
- A child who discloses something which may indicate he/she is being abused.
Understanding the Child’s World
As a St. Mary’s Nursery member of staff, you are familiar with the many factors which can affect how children learn, how they react and how they develop. When you are concerned about any child, it is helpful to be familiar with government guidance to help agencies to work together in taking a common approach to assessment and service planning: the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (1999) – please see attached Common Assessment Framework diagram. A child’s developmental needs are affected in different ways by the parenting capacity of carers and by the family and environmental situation of the child.
How to Share your Concerns
Keep a factual note of any concerns, i.e. what you have observed and heard. Discuss your concerns with Margaret Pout. If there are serious concerns and Margaret Pout is not available but immediate advise is needed then contact The Area Children’s Officer (Early Years) 01233 898696. Sign and date your records for future reference. If appropriate share any initial concerns with the child’s parents, as there may be a perfectly innocent explanation for changes which you have observed. For example:
- A sudden change in behaviour could be due to the death or illness of close family member or pet.
- Weight loss and/or failing to thrive could be a symptom of an illness.
- A sibling or another child could have inflicted an injury accidentally.
- You suspect sexual abuse
- You do not get an explanation which you feel is consistent or acceptable from the parents/carer
- You feel that discussing the issue with parents may put the child at further risk of significant harm
- You think a criminal offence has been committed
Then you must discuss your concerns with Margaret Pout without delay.
Concerns or Uncertainties
There may be occasions when you have concerns about a child which do not appear to justify a referral of suspected child abuse, but nonetheless leave you feeling uncomfortable. In these circumstances, following consultation with Margaret Pout you should telephone either the Mid Kent Children’s Officer 01233 898644 or the Children and Families Duty Team for Mid Kent (Social Services) 08458 247102 to talk through your concerns. You do not need to give the child’s name at that point. The Families Duty Team will advise you whether or not your concerns do justify making a child protection referral. They may consider the child to be ‘a child in need’ rather than ‘a child at risk of significant harm’. In this case a referral to Children’s Social Services should be made but only with the parent’s agreement. Families sometimes have a negative perception of the role of Children’s Social Services and are reluctant to contact them fearing that their children may be taken into care. The reality is that Children’s Social Services can offer a lot of help both directly and through other agencies to families who are experiencing difficulties. So your influence and support in the referral process will be very important. Children’s Social Services will assess the family probably along with other agencies and put in a support package if appropriate, of which St. Mary’s Nursery may well be part. If the family concerned is reluctant for Children’s Social Services to be contacted and following a discussion with Margaret Pout you could ask the parents’ permission to contact another relevant agency on their behalf such as the Health Visitor. It is important to document that parental consent had been obtained.
If you are reasonably confident that the child concerned is likely to be at risk, you must immediately discuss this with Margaret Pout. She will then telephone the Children’s Social Worker stating that she has serious concerns about a child in our care. You may contact Mid Kent Area Children’s Officer (Early Years) 01233 898696 yourself for advise.
The Mid Kent Area Children’s Officer – 01233 898644
The Children and Families Duty Team for Mid Kent (Social Services) – 0845 330 2967
Social Services Offices (County Duty Service 24 hours) – 08458 247102
Ofsted – 0300 123 4666 (complaints)
Ofsted – 0300 123 3155 (whistleblowing)
Following a telephone referral we will be expected to follow this up in writing within 24 hours by completing a multi-agency referral form. These are located within the Child Protection folder in the filing cabinet. Under Section 47 of the Children Act 2989 Local Authorities have a statutory duty to make enquiries where they have ‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm’. The Children’s Social Services Department carries this responsibility on behalf of the Local Authority. Once we have made a referral we have fulfilled our responsibility to the child. It is at this point that Children’s Social Services will take over and a decision will be made on what happens next. All referrals are taken seriously and the needs of the child and family will be assessed so that appropriate enquiries are followed up and support can be put into place where relevant. Enquiries will be made to other professionals and the child’s family. St. Mary’s Nursery may be included in these enquiries and we may be part of any on-going support for the child. Under Section 47(9) all staff at St. Mary’s Nursery has a duty to co-operate with these enquiries if required to do so.
What Will be the Outcome?
Having made a referral about a child, you will probably want to know the outcome of the investigation. You should receive some information but for reasons of confidentiality, this will be on a ‘need to know’ basis. Margaret Pout should be invited to participate in any meetings set up for the child.
How to respond to a child who discloses something to you
If a child tells you something, it is important that you respond appropriately.
- Do listen to the child and avoid interrupting except to clarify.
- Allow the child to make the disclosure at their own pace and in their own way.
- Do not interrogate the child. It is alright to ask for clarification, but you should not ask leading questions. Misguided or inappropriate questioning in the first instance can do more harm than good and may contaminate evidence which could be needed in an investigation. The interviewing of children must be undertaken by the trained Social workers or Police Officers.
- Do not make any promises to the child about not passing on the information – the child needs to know that you have to talk to someone who will be able to help them.
- Record the information as accurately as you can including the timing, setting, those present as well as what was said. Do not exaggerate or embellish what you have heard in any way.
- Inform the Designated person, Margaret Pout.
Staff can play a vital role in helping children in need or at risk by effective monitoring and record keeping. Any incident or behavioural change in a child or that gives cause for concern should be recorded on an incident sheet, copies of which are kept in the Child Protection folder (white) in the filing cabinet. It is important that records are kept factual and reflect the words used by the child. Records must be signed and dated with timings if appropriate. Information to be recorded:
- Child’s name and date of birth
- The incident with dates and times
- A verbatim record of what the child has said
- If recording bruising/injuries indicate position, colour, size, shape on body map (in file).
- Action taken
What do to if you need to take emergency action to protect a child
On very rare occasions it may be necessary to act quickly. For example, to protect a child from a drunken or violent parent. In these circumstances it would be appropriate to discuss this with Margaret Pout immediately who should telephone the police. In an unlikely event that a child is brought to the setting with serious injuries it would be appropriate to discuss this with Margaret Pout immediately who should telephone for an ambulance. However it is important to remember that these types of scenarios are unlikely to happen.
What support is available to you?
Any member of the team affected by issues arising from concerns for children’s welfare or safety can seek support from their Designated Person for Child Protection. That person can put staff and parents in touch with outside agencies for professional support if they wish so.
Monitoring and Review
This policy will be reviewed at least once a year to reflect new guidance and legislation issued in relation to safeguarding children and promoting their welfare. All staff will have access to this policy and will sign to the effect that they have read and understood its contents.
SUMMARY OF PROCEDURES
Share your concerns
- Keep a factual note of any concerns, i.e. what you have heard or seen.
- Discuss your concerns with designated person or deputy (Margaret Pout or Sarah Brady).
- If Margaret Pout or Sarah Brady are not available, them speak immediately to the Area Children’s Officers, Kate Davies on 01233 898644 or 07740 183797 or Angela Chapman on 01233 652149 or 07717 895731.
- Make a written report on the incident using forms in the ‘Child Protection’ folder. Include times, dates, where incident was witnessed or disclosed, mark body drawing if appropriate.
- Only include what you have observed or heard in your report and do not interrogate the child. Allow the child to make the disclosure in their own way.
- Do not make any promises to the child about not sharing the information.
Please see ‘Further Information (Child Protection)’ for more details.