This Safeguarding Children & Young People policy outlines Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid’s (BSWA’s) responsibilities in relation to Safeguarding Children (aged up to 18 years). The policy should be read alongside BSWA’s Values and Principles and has it’s foundations in the principles of listening to and believing women and children’s experience of abuse. The policy has drawn from the Safeguarding Children Board’s Safeguarding Children Procedures in Birmingham and Solihull and Working Together 2013 and seeks to clarify BSWA’s role as part of a wider, multi-agency response to Safeguarding Children in Birmingham and Solihull in addition to clarifying staff roles and responsibilities in relation to Safeguarding.
- 7% of children suffer serious physical abuse at the hands of their parent or carer
- 52% of one year olds are hit weekly, or more frequently, by their parents
- 25% of all rape victims are under 16 years old
- Each week at least one child dies from cruelty (NSPCC Safeguarding Toolkit 2007)
- 1 in 3 child protection cases show a history of domestic violence to the mother (Hester and Pearson 1998)
- Research sponsored by the National Children’s Home in the U.K found 75% of mothers using children’s services said their children had witnessed domestic violence, 33% had seen their mothers beaten, 10% had witnessed sexual violence (NCH 1994)
- 8 out of 10 young people who said that they had suffered serious physical abuse during their childhoods had also witnessed domestic violence between their parents or carers (Cawson 2002, NSPCC)
- In 90% of incidents involving domestic violence the children are in the same or next room (Hughes 1992)
- BSWA believes that all children have the right to be protected from all forms of abuse, whether this be physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect
- BSWA holds a feminist perspective on abuse which places responsibility for the abuse solely on the adult abuser
- BSWA adopts a child-centred approach to working with children and believes strongly that children are never to blame for any abuse they may experience
- BSWA recognises that there is a very high correlation between the experience of Domestic Violence and Child Protection
- BSWA recognises that living with Domestic Violence is abusive in itself. The definition of “harm” as used in the Adoption and Children Act 2002 includes impairment caused by seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another person
- BSWA recognises that one of the most effective ways to support a child living with domestic violence is to provide support for the mother/carer. BSWA acknowledges however that there may be occasions where this is either not possible or is inappropriate. On such occasions BSWA is clear that the welfare of the child is paramount.
- BSWA will ensure that risk assessments are conducted so as to provide a safe and secure environment in which children can thrive, develop and have fun and where all aspects of their welfare will be protected
- BSWA will establish and maintain an environment where children using our services feel secure, are encouraged to talk about their experiences of abuse and are listened to
- BSWA will ensure our refuges are safe places for children to live. BSWA will operate a no smacking policy in all of our refuges. BSWA staff will work directly with families to promote non-abusive methods of resolving conflict and to encourage mums to consider other more appropriate forms of discipline
Staff & Service Provision
- BSWA will operate the requirements of Safer Recruitment as set out in LSCB procedures
- BSWA will ensure all staff undergo a DBS check that is regularly reviewed (at least every 3 years)
- BSWA will ensure all staff undergo Safeguarding Children training as part of their induction into post. In addition all project staff will attend Safeguarding Children training provided by the Safeguarding Children Boards of Birmingham and Solihull
- BSWA will ensure all staff are familiar with this policy and are trained in its’ implementation
- BSWA will ensure that all staff have access to BSWA policies on: Professional Boundaries; Protection from Abuse; Whistle Blowing in order that they can take the appropriate steps should they be concerned that a member of staff is behaving inappropriately towards children and young people
- BSWA will engage in the Early Help Assessment process, this will include taking on the role of lead practitioner where appropriate
- BSWA will ensure all staff explain to women and children using our services about this Safeguarding Children Policy and Procedures, with particular reference to limitations to confidentiality
- BSWA will ensure that children using our services are clear about who they can go to for help and what action will be taken if they report issues of abuse
- BSWA will ensure that women and children using BSWA services understand how to make a complaint should they have safeguarding concerns. Information about how to raise a safeguarding concern within and outside of BSWA will be displayed at all BSWA refuges
- Where we are asked to provide a service to a woman who has been convicted of offences against children BSWA staff will complete a comprehensive risk assessment to ensure suitability for the service
(Taken from Working Together 2010)
A Child in Need of Protection:
- A child is in need of protection if s/he is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm which is attributable to the child not receiving the standard of care which it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give her/him.
Harm refers to the ill-treatment of a child or impairment of a child’s health (physical or mental) or development (physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural). It also includes harm caused by seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another person. There are no absolute criteria for judging when harm is significant. Relevant consideration would include:
- the degree of any physical harm
- the extent of any physical harm
- the duration of abuse and neglect
- the frequency of abuse and neglect
- the extent of premeditation
- the degree of threat and coercion
On occasions a single event may constitute significant harm e.g. a violent physical assault, sexual abuse, attempted suffocation, enforced starvation. On other occasions significant harm may be a compilation of significant events which hinder a child’s physical and / or emotional health and development.
What is Abuse and Neglect?
Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family or an institutional or community setting, by those known to them, or more rarely, by a stranger for example, via the internet. They may be abused by an adult or adults, or another child or children.
Physical abuse may involve: hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating 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 in a child in their care.
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill-treatment of a child such as to cause 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 include not giving the child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or “making fun” of what they say or how they communicate. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as over protection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying (including cyberbullying), causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.
Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet). Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/ or psychological needs, likely to result in the impairment of a child’s health or development. Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:
- Provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment)
- Protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger
- Ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care-givers)
- Ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment
It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs. In addition BSWA recognises that living with Domestic Violence is abusive in itself. The definition of “harm” as used in the Adoption and Children Act 2002 includes impairment caused by seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another person. BSWA may also be involved in working with families who are also at risk of the following issues:
Sexually Exploited Children and young People
This may involve children and young people who have been coerced into sexual activity by gangs or may be the victims of trafficking. Risks to young people in such situations are likely to be high.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
FGM is reportedly practised in 28 African countries and in parts of the Middle and Far East. It has been estimated that up to 24,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of FGM in the UK (Working Together 2010). Birmingham is home to a number of practising communities. FGM is a criminal offence in the UK.
This may involve children and young people under the age of 18 being taken out of the UK and forced into marriage overseas. As well as following Safeguarding procedures Birmingham’s Forced Marriage Protocol should be adhered to.
Violent Extremism (the PREVENT agenda)
This may involve children and young people under the age of 18 being exploited and coerced into risky and illegal behaviour based around ideology. It is important to be cautious in assessing Violent Extremism to avoid inappropriately labelling or stigmatising individuals because they fit a specific profile.
DEALING WITH CHILD PROTECTION ISSUES WITHIN BSWA
Everyone within BSWA has a responsibility to safeguard the physical and emotional heath of children however BSWA acknowledges the importance of having named personnel that staff members can refer to where possible safeguarding children concerns arise.
Within BSWA project managers have the ultimate responsibility around safeguarding children and as such are BSWA’s designated Safeguarding Children leads:
BSWA has a nominated Board member: Sarah Robbins who has overall responsibility for Safeguarding.
Responding To Suspicions Of Abuse
- Staff are expected to pro actively work with mothers/carers to ascertain any risks to children within the household. This is particularly important for services who do not come into direct contact with children. In these services staff are expected to be hyper vigilant of the link between domestic violence and child protection; to pro actively talk to mothers/carers about any safeguarding concerns and to ensure that any information is documented in accordance with BSWA procedure
- Where appropriate, any safeguarding concerns should be discussed immediately with relevant colleagues
- BSWA’s designated Safeguarding Children lead should be informed as soon as possible. Where the designated lead cannot be contacted another manager within the organisation should be approached
- In consultation with the staff member, the designated Safeguarding Children lead will decide what action will be taken, including a decision on whether to involve safeguarding colleagues from other relevant organisations and/or to report the matter to Children’s Services and/or the police. In making this decision, it is expected that the Safeguarding Children lead will consider the risks posed to children both inside and outside the immediate family.
- If a decision is made to make a Safeguarding referral, the Safeguarding Children lead or another manager within the organisation should ensure they approve any completed paperwork before it is sent off
- All concerns and any action taken should be documented using the appropriate BSWA paperwork
- Wherever possible staff should inform women and children of any concerns and any action that is taken. The exception to this would be where a staff member, in conjunction with the designated Safeguarding Children lead, feels to do so would place a child at further risk of significant harm. Wherever possible staff should encourage women to make their own referrals to Children’s Services
- In situations of emotional abuse or neglect it is important to be pro-active in promoting better care for the child. Concern may not be isolated to a particular incident so it is vital that concerns are documented over a period of time. In such situations it may be decided to offer additional support internally or involve external agencies via the EHA process before making a child protection referral RESPONDING TO A CHILD ABUSING ANOTHER CHILD
- If BSWA is engaged in work that brings children together in a group setting and it is discovered that within that group one child is abusing another BSWA staff will work with the parent of that child to manage the behaviour and, in extreme cases, may need to terminate the service.
- BSWA recognises that a child who abuses another child is themselves in need of support and would refer both children into appropriate services wherever possible. At all times BSWA staff will provide support to the abused child. RESPONDING TO A CHILD BEING ABUSED BY ANOTHER RESIDENT IN REFUGE
- Where an allegation of this nature is made BSWA staff will investigate immediately and this may result in referral to the police or Children’s Services and the family against whom the allegation is made being moved to other suitable accommodation RESPONDING TO A WOMAN WHEN SHE IS THE ABUSING PARENT
- Where we are engaged with a woman who we suspect to be the abusing parent or working with a woman who is currently engaged with Children’s Services as an abusing parent, BSWA staff will support her in supporting her children. This will include one to one sessions with her, joint sessions with her and her children, engagement with EHA, referral to Children’s Services, meetings with social workers, attendance at Case Conferences and Core Groups
- It is not the responsibility of BSWA staff to carry out parenting assessments on behalf of Children’s Services RESPONDING TO ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE AGAINST PERSONS IN A POSITION OF TRUST
- Where an allegation of abuse is made against someone in a position of trust (ie someone whose job role involves regular contact and/or caring/supervisory responsibility for children or young people) the designated Safeguarding Children lead, in conjunction with a senior manager, should make a decision whether to make a “position of trust referral”. This would be done to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO)
- Where an allegation of abuse is made against a staff member within Children’s Services and a decision to report is made, the designated Safeguarding Children lead should ensure that the referral is made directly to the Local Authority Designated Officer
- It is not the responsibility of anyone within BSWA to investigate whether or not a child is being abused. This is the responsibility of Children’s Services and the police.
RESPONDING TO ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE AGAINST A BSWA STAFF MEMBER
- Information and allegations of this nature should be reported to the designated lead for Safeguarding Children and to a member of the Senior Management team as soon as possible in order for a full investigation to be carried out and to enable BSWA to follow relevant local authority procedures
- During the period of investigation a risk assessment will be undertaken to establish whether or not the staff member is suspended from work or reassigned other duties. At all times the safety and welfare of children will be the primary consideration
- Full records of any allegation made and any subsequent investigation should be kept using the appropriate paperwork
- If a criminal offence appears to have been committed or if it is felt other children are at risk, the matter will be referred to the police and/or the Local Authority Designated Officer and the Charity Commission
- If a staff member is found to have behaved inappropriately or abusively in any way, in addition to the matter being reported to the police and/or the LADO, this will be dealt with in accordance with BSWA disciplinary procedures and consideration given as to whether a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and other regulatory bodies is required
- Where a staff member is under suspicion of behaving abusively to a child or young person they are encouraged to use BSWA’s Employment Assistance Programme to access support
- The written recording of allegations of abuse, suspected abuse and actual abuse of children and action taken is vital
- BSWA have established recording systems to be used in conjunction with this policy. These systems should be used throughout the whole organisation, thus ensuring consistency of approach
- When documenting anything in relation to Safeguarding Children, staff should only record factual information, not opinion
- Research has shown that keeping children safe from harm is more achievable if organisations work together and share relevant information
- Sharing of information must be set within a risk assessment framework where the specific safety issues connected with Domestic Violence are fully explored including whether inappropriate disclosure may lead to increased risk
- Before information is shared BSWA expect staff to consider the following questions:
- Is a child at risk of significant harm?
- If you do not share information is the welfare of a child potentially jeopardized?
- What is the purpose of sharing a piece of information?
- Should the consent of the mother be gained prior to sharing information?
- If not, why not?
- What will you do if the service user withholds consent?
- BSWA needs to balance its duty to protect children from harm with organisational policy regarding confidentiality and data protection legislation. Where there are concerns regarding a child’s wellbeing the overriding objective must be to safeguard that child
- In line with organisational policy, information should normally only be disclosed with consent from the service user. However there may be situations where this is either not possible or to obtain consent would place a child a further risk. On these occasions, and following discussions with the designated Safeguarding Children lead, information should be shared without consent
- Where a family engages with our services and we know that children are currently on a child protection plan BSWA will contact Children’s Services to let them know of our involvement with the family and share relevant information to support multi-agency working. Wherever possible BSWA will encourage women to make that contact herself
- Where BSWA are working with a family where there are safeguarding concerns and the family disengages from the service or goes missing from refuge, BSWA will inform safeguarding colleagues from other statutory organisations including Children’s Services and the police
Occasionally a situation may arise when BSWA have raised a safeguarding concern in relation to a child/children and it is felt the response from statutory services is not a safe one. The safety of individual children is the paramount consideration in any professionals’ disagreement and workers should feel able to challenge decision making in a timely fashion in order to best safeguard the child
- Where a staff member feels a decision has been made that is not safe or is inappropriate she should raise it internally with the designated safeguarding children lead or another manager in order to clarify thinking and identify a course of action
- If it is felt the decision needs to be challenged this should be done between the worker and the relevant front line practitioner in the first instance
- If the problem is not resolved the line manager / designated safeguarding lead will raise the problem with the equivalent manager in the other agency
- If the problem continues the issue will be escalated to a member of BSWA’s senior management team who will raise at a more senior level and, if agreement cannot be secured, may consider referring to the Chair of the LSCB
- In all cases the primary focus will be on ensuring the safety and welfare of the child concerned and all stages of the process will be recorded using established BSWA paperwork
The effectiveness of this policy will be reviewed regularly, after each major incident and at least annually, which will include analysis to ensure there is no detrimental impact on any particular group of women or children during its’ implementation.
For further information, including contact details for making a safeguarding referral see: