Child abuse campaign

The “Together, we can tackle child abuse” campaign has been launched by the Department for Education with the support of local authorities and other partners. The aim of the campaign is to encourage members of the public to report instances of child abuse and neglect and overcome the barriers that stop people reporting. We all have a role to play in protecting children and young people. Together, we can tackle child abuse.

How to spot the signs of child abuse and neglect

To spot the signs of child abuse or neglect, look for changes in:

  • Appearance – such as frequent unexplained injuries, consistently poor hygiene, matted hair, unexplained gifts, or a parent regularly collecting children from school when drunk 
  • Behaviour - such as demanding or aggressive behavior, frequent lateness or absence from school, avoiding their own family, misusing drugs or alcohol, or being constantly tired
  • Communication – such as sexual or aggressive language, self-harming, becoming secretive and reluctant to share information or being overly obedient

What stops people reporting?

Most people find the decision to report child abuse a difficult one. They worry about overreacting or being wrong, and may question whether they have strong enough evidence, or if they have misread the signs of abuse or misunderstood a situation.  These fears are understandable, but unfounded.

You don’t need to be absolutely certain of what you’ve seen or heard to call your local children’s social care team. Information is usually gathered from many sources, and your report would form one part of a bigger picture.

Another big worry people have is that someone will find out they have made a report, but this is unlikely to happen as you can make the call anonymously, although most people do give their details.

Some people don’t report suspected abuse because they think it might just be a oneoff.  But even if that is the case, every child deserves to be protected and it is better to be safe than sorry.

Research shows that some people prefer to talk to someone such as a partner, family member or friend before making a report – and that’s perfectly fine.

They may also wait until they are certain before making an official report. But you don’t have to be absolutely certain about whether a child is being abused; if you have a feeling that something’s not right, talk to your local children’s social care team who can look into it.

Busting myths and barriers to reporting child abuse

A third of people who suspect child abuse, do nothing. A number of people do not act on their suspicions because they’re worried about being wrong.  Here are some of the common myths around reporting child abuse and neglect, and the facts.

Myth:

Reporting a child/family to the ‘social services’ means the child will be removed from their family immediately by social workers

Fact:

Social workers protect vulnerable children and provide support to families in need of assistance.  Sharing your concerns with a local authority will not mean a child is taken into care, but could mean the authorities spot a problem sooner and can take action to help the child and the family concerned.

Ultimately the decision for removing a child from their family rests with the courts.

Myth:

It’s only child abuse if there’s physical or sexual violence

Fact:

Nationally in 2014-15, over three quarters of the children on child protection plans were as a result of neglect or emotional abuse. Of the remaining children, 10% for physical abuse, and 5% for sexual abuse. Many children and young people are likely to experience more than one type of abuse.

Specifically, emotional abuse includes bullying, making a child feel worthless or unloved, inadequate, deliberately silencing them or frequently causing a child to feel frightened or in danger.

Neglect covers the ongoing persistent failure to meet a child’s basic needs. It may include failing to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, or medical treatment.

Neglect includes failure to protect a child from harm or danger and failing to ensure proper care or supervision.

To spot the signs of child abuse or neglect, look for changes in:

  • Appearance – such as frequent unexplained injuries, consistently poor hygiene, matted hair, unexplained gifts, or a parent regularly collecting children from school when drunk 
  • Behaviour - such as demanding or aggressive behavior, frequent lateness or absence from school, avoiding their own family, misusing drugs or alcohol, or being constantly tired
  • Communication – such as sexual or aggressive language, self-harming, becoming secretive and reluctant to share information or being overly obedient

Myth:

People will know it is me that reported.

Fact:

When you report to Children’s Social care you will be asked for your details and can discuss if you’d prefer your details were kept private.

Myth:

It’s not my job to report child abuse – that’s for teachers or professionals to handle

Fact:

Keeping children safe is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone in the community has an important role to play. An abused child wants the opportunity to be heard, but children need adults to spot the signs, notice if something is troubling them, and act on their concerns.

A third of people who suspect child abuse, do nothing. A number of people do not act on their suspicions because they’re worried about being wrong. You don’t have to be absolutely certain about your suspicions; if you have a feeling that something’s not right, talk to your local children’s social care team who can look into it.

Myth:

Child abuse doesn’t happen in my neighbourhood, I live in a good area

Fact:

Whatever their background, age, gender, race or sexuality or wherever they live, any child or young person could be abused or neglected. Child abuse and neglect can occur anywhere.

Myth:

It’s best to wait until you’re absolutely certain you have firm evidence before reporting child abuse

Fact:

You don’t have to be absolutely certain about your suspicions; if you have a feeling that something’s not right, talk to your local children’s social care team who can look into it. A third of people who suspect child abuse, do nothing. A number of people do not act on their suspicions because they’re worried about being wrong.

Myth:

If the child doesn’t tell someone about the abuse taking place it cannot be that serious

Fact:

Research indicates that children and young people suffering abuse may make multiple attempts to tell someone. However, talking about this is a difficult subject. It may be more subtle than just coming out with it or showing a visual sign.

While young people told a diverse range of people about their abuse; friends and mothers were by far the most common people who they spoke to first.

Myth:

Children are just attention seeking when they act up

Fact:

Changes in behaviour are one of the key signs that a child may be suffering from abuse or neglect.

Myth:

Children have lots of adults they can turn to for help if they are being abused.

Fact:

Children and young people find it extremely difficult to ask for help from anyone if they are being abused.  The most common barriers that stop them asking for help are:

  • having no one to turn to: absence of someone trusted to tell and feelings of isolation
  • fears and anxieties manipulated by the abuser
  • developmental barriers
  • emotional barriers and anxieties
  • no one listened and no one asked: lack of recognition of abuse by others
  • anxiety over the confidentiality of their information

What should you do if you suspect child abuse?

If you suspect child abuse or neglect, you should contact the North Yorkshire County Council's Children's Social Care on 01609 780780 or if a child is in immediate danger the police on 999.  For more information visit:

http://www.safeguardingchildren.co.uk/worried-about-child

You can also find out more infromation from www.gov.uk/reportchildabuse

Worried about a child?

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