- Why do we have a Policy and Procedures?
- What do we mean by Child Abuse?
- Reporting Procedures – What do I do if I have a concern?
- Designated Officer – What do they do?
Why do we have a Policy and Procedures?
Within society we are all governed by legislation and guidance. At Families First we need to provide guidance to volunteers, staff and parents to inform them what to do, and how to abide by the requirements of law.
The relevant legislation relating to child protection is:
- The Children N.I. Order 1995
- UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 3 and Article 9)
- Co-operating to Safeguard Children (DHSSPS May 2003)
- The Criminal Law Act 1967
- The Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (N.I.) 2003
The above legislation underpins Families First Policy and
‘…parents have the primary responsibility of raising and educating their children in order to ensure their integral development… For this purpose both the laws and services of the state are called on to cooperate in giving the family adequate support.’ (The Family and Human Rights, para 47, 2001)
What do we mean by Child Abuse?
Child abuse can be a very emotive and difficult subject. Over the years our knowledge and understanding of abuse has developed, but it is the law that determines what is meant by Child Abuse.
The following are the 4 main categories of abuse, and how they are defined (Co-operating to Safeguard Children 2003 DHSS).
- Sexual Abuse involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities i.e. encouraging a child to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, production of pornography.
- Emotional Abuse is the persistent emotional ill-treatment of a child, which adversely affects the child’s emotional development.
- Physical Abuse is the deliberate physical injury to a child or the wilful or neglectful failure to prevent physical injury or suffering.
- Neglect Abuse is the persistent failure to meet a child’s physical, emotional or psychological needs, which is likely to result in significant harm.
- Recognising Child Abuse is often not easy or straightforward, it may be complex and demand professional intervention in order to investigate and to decide what action needs to be taken.
- It is not the responsibility of any volunteer or staff in Families First to decide if an action or behaviour is abuse or not. That is the role of the statutory authorities (i.e. Social Service or police).
- It is however the responsibility of us all to pass on any concerns we may have about a child or about the conduct of an adult towards a child.
- It is also important to be aware that children also abuse each other.
‘For children ‘freedom’ includes the possibility to grow and develop free from neglect, harm, abuse and exploitation.’ (based on Pacem in Terris: Peace on Earth)
Reporting Procedures – What do I do if I have a concern?
It is essential that volunteers and staff are clear about what to do if they have a concern about the safety of a child or young person, or about the conduct of an adult towards a child or young person.
Things to note if you have a concern about a child’s welfare:
Always pass on your concern. Do not feel that you have to decide if it’s abuse, or what type of abuse. Your role is clear – pass it on. Let the appropriate statutory agencies decide what should happen next.
|What should be reported?||The Facts. What is causing concern about a child. Is it something seen, heard or passed on by someone else. Or the conduct of an adult towards a child.|
|Who should it be reported to?||Families First has appointed a Designated Officer whom you can contact for advice and guidance.|
|When should it be reported?||As soon as possible. Do Not Delay.|
|Why should it be reported?||To allow those with responsibility to take appropriate action.|
Sometimes it is difficult to decide what to do when something is bothering you about a child or the conduct of someone towards a child, perhaps all you want to do is talk to someone about it, and check out the best thing to do.
Designated Officer – What do they do?
The Designated Officer
- Provides advice, guidance and assistance
- Acts As the link person between Families First and statutory authorities when there is a child protection concern
Volunteers, staff, parents and children can contact the Designated Officer to seek advice and guidance regarding a safeguarding issue. It’s a free, consultative service.
Whilst not all concerns may be of a child protection nature, those which are will be shared with the statutory authorities.
The Designated Officer will then
- Gather information regarding concerns/suspicions/allegations.
- Seek advice and guidance from Social Services if necessary.
- Make a referral to Social Services/police if necessary.
- Record relevant factual information.
- Report back to the referrer the basic details of what has happened.