Safeguarding Children

Scope of this chapter

We all have a responsibility to make sure children are safe from harm and abuse. This chapter will provide guidance about the behaviours and signs that could indicate that a child is at risk, managing a disclosure from a child and reporting concerns. 

Relevant Regulations

A Safeguarding Children concern must be raised whenever you believe that a child is suffering (or is likely to suffer) significant harm.

This could be a child that lives with the person being supported, a child that visits them or is visited by them, or a child that you encounter in any other circumstances, whether known to Children’s Services or not.

A child is anyone under the age of 18.

Harm is “the behaviour of any individual that has caused (or may cause) the ill treatment of a child or lead to an impairment in their health or development”.

It includes:

  • Harm directed towards the child (by an adult/adults or another child);
  • Harm caused by failing to act to prevent harm;
  • Intentional and unintentional harm;
  • The impact of witnessing harm to others, for example in domestic abuse situations;
  • Harm from online activity.

It also applies to unborn children, where significant harm is (or may be) occurring in the uterus or likely to occur after birth.

Child abuse and neglect is the most common way that significant harm is caused.

The following table sets out definitions and examples of child abuse and neglect. These are identified in Working Together to Safeguard Children and Keeping Children Safe in Education. These are the two primary frameworks for safeguarding children practice in England.

It is important that everyone understands what abuse and neglect is and how to recognise when it is (or may be) occurring.

Physical abuse

Hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child.

Causing deliberate illness in a child.

Emotional abuse

Conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person.

Not giving the child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or 'making fun' of what they say or how they communicate.

Imposing age or developmentally inappropriate expectations on children. This means expecting too much from a younger child or not permitting an older child to develop or learn.

Seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another e.g., where there is domestic abuse.

Serious bullying (including cyberbullying).

Causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger.

Exploiting and corrupting children.

Sexual abuse

Forcing or enticing a child 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.

Forcing, enticing or facilitating children to look at sexual images, watch sexual activities, or behave in sexually inappropriate ways. This includes online activity.


The persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and/or psychological needs - food, clothing, shelter, protection from harm, inadequate supervision, not accessing medical care or treatment.

Domestic abuse (from 16)

Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence and abuse between those aged 16 or over, who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender and sexuality.

If a child discloses that they are suffering or have suffered significant harm through abuse or neglect, or have caused or are causing physical or sexual harm to others, the initial response should be to listen carefully to what they say and to observe their behaviour and circumstances to:

  • Clarify the concerns;
  • Offer re-assurance about how they will be kept safe;
  • Explain what action will be taken by you and others, and within what timeframe.

The child must not be pressed for information, led or cross-examined or given false assurances of absolute confidentiality, as this could prejudice police investigations, especially in cases of sexual abuse.

If the child can understand the significance and consequences of making a referral to local authority Children’s Services, they should be asked for their views. However, it should be explained that whilst their view will be taken into account, the service has a responsibility to take whatever action is required to ensure their safety and the safety of any other children.

The local Safeguarding Children’s Partnership (SCP) will have a full set of multi-agency procedures and guidance that you should access as required.

These will be particularly helpful if you have to provide information to a disclosing child about what to expect, timeframes etc., or if you are likely to be involved in any local authority Children's Service response e.g., a safeguarding enquiry.

The process for making a referral to local authority Children’s Services should be easily accessible to all.

An appropriate and proportionate record should be made of any concerns raised and advice/instruction given.

The local authority will determine the best course of action based on the nature of the concern. This could be to intervene with an Early Help service to support the family unit.

Note: If you deem a child to be at immediate risk of harm or in need of urgent medical attention dial 999.

All staff should receive basic awareness training to support them in meeting their duty to safeguard children. This is normally available from the local Safeguarding Children’s Partnership.

Last Updated: March 21, 2022