Child Protection Policy
All children without exception have the right to protection from abuse regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality or beliefs. The purpose of a child protection policy is to ensure that appropriate action is taken when a young person up to the age of 18 years is suspected of either being abused or at risk from parents, guardians, carers, adult visitors, other responsible adults or other young people.
The Child Protection Policy recognises that the safety and protection of children is paramount and has priority over all other interests.
The Child Protection Policy is informed by the ‘Safe from Harm’ code of practice (Home Office 1993). We seek to ensure that children are protected and safe from harm when they come into contact with the National Stalking Helpline.
Occasions when Helpline staff may come into contact with children and young people
- When a person under the age of 18 contacts the Helpline for information and/or support.
- When a person over the age of 18 who is in contact with the Helpline discloses information to Helpline staff about concerns for a child or young person.
Individual roles within the child protection process
All members of Helpline staff are responsible for implementing the Child Protection policy. If a member of Helpline staff has any immediate concerns about the abuse or neglect of a child they must notify senior management at the most immediate opportunity.
Step by step guide following reports of abuse or concern
- A senior manager should assess all allegations promptly and carefully and consider the need for immediate action. The caller should be informed that you are considering making a third party referral.
- Where a senior manager decides there are serious grounds for immediate concern about an individual the police or ambulance service should be informed immediately via 999.
- Appropriate support should be offered to the staff members involved .
Guidance on talking with young people and confidentiality
Helpline staff may be told of issues that raise cause for concern. If that happens they should not cross examine the young person and should never indicate to the young person that secrets will be kept. A feature of sexual abuse, in particular, is the secrecy that exists between the perpetrator and young person. Consequently any Helpline staff will disclose details of such cases to senior management at the most available opportunity and always within 24 hours.
Approaches from young people along the lines of “If I tell you something you won’t tell anyone else will you?” should be met with a firm but gentle explanation along the lines of “I can’t promise that I won’t decide to share some things you might tell me with someone else. What I can promise is not to do that without you knowing.” Young people may then choose not to tell, but usually they are looking for someone to help them to break out of their secret not join them in it. If the young person goes on to decide not to give further information then the staff member will make sure that the young person is aware and knows of organisations that may operate in confidence.
If a young person is being abused physically or sexually, the NSPCC, Social Services and ChildLine should always be mentioned and their role explained. It is not within the Helpline’s remit to work with the user to persuade them to give permission to disclose information to a third party. There are other agencies, such as ChildLine that are better placed to provide counselling to help a young person decide whether they want to disclose to a statutory agency.
If a service user is in a life-threatening situation, the emergency services should always be mentioned and explained. This could be described as: ‘Because of what you’ve described to me, it sounds like you might be in serious danger – you should call an ambulance’.
We are a confidential Helpline; however there are instances when confidentiality would be breached (please see our Confidentiality Policy for more detail).
Categories of Abuse
Physical Abuse – The first task should be to ask the young person to describe the incident and any resultant injuries.
Appropriate Action – If you are worried that the young person’s life is in immediate risk then you may want to consider calling the emergency services (see Confidentiality Policy). If not then you should make sure the young person is aware of services that may be able to help them and ensure you log the contact as usual.
Sexual Abuse – Child sexual abuse usually comes to light in a different way from physical abuse or neglect. The most usual route is that the young person confides: this is usually referred to as ‘disclosure’.
Appropriate Action – The Helpline staff member’s role is not to discuss the detail of the case with the young person or with the parent/carer, but to listen, reassure and support the young person in taking action. If you are concerned that the young person is being sexually abused then you must discuss this with senior management who will then take appropriate action which could include taking advice from Social Services or contacting the police if it is felt there is an immediate danger to the child.
Emotional Abuse – Emotional abuse is present in all abuse but can also stand alone. Again, if you are concerned that this is present then you should discuss with the manager what action is appropriate.
Appropriate Action – If you feel the young person’s life is in danger then talk to senior management and you may wish to consider contacting the police. If not then ensure the young person is aware of agencies that may be able to provide advice or support.
Neglect – For neglect to be considered it needs to be persistent or severe resulting in a “significant impairment of the young person’s health or development”.
Appropriate Action – If you feel the young person’s life is in danger then you may want to consider calling the emergency services. If you feel this is not appropriate then discuss the disclosure at the nearest possible opportunity with senior manegement and always within 24 hours and log the call as usual.
Recording disclosed information
If a young person has disclosed abuse, the Helpline staff member who was privy to the disclosure should make notes of what has been said. They should take care to do this in a way that does not block the young person from talking: they could for instance be agreed with the young person at the end of the call. These notes would be kept securely on the Helpline log; any identifiable information will be kept for a period of six months then destroyed.