Safeguarding children and young people

Listening to young people’s concerns

A child or a young person may tell you that they are in experiencing a form of Violence Against Women and Girls, or you may spot warning signs that you are concerned about. This child or young person may be at risk of harm and it is your responsibility to treat this seriously and to follow the education settings child protection policy and procedure.

You can also refer to the Government’s inter-agency guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children (2013)

Talking about violence against women and girls:

Where children and young people are encouraged to start to talk about Violence Against Women and Girls they may want to discuss their own experiences. They may turn to education staff for support. Education practitioners can talk to children and young people about all forms of Violence Against Women and Girls in a safe and age-appropriate way. All conversations need to be backed up by telling them about who to talk to in the education setting and different support services that are available such as helplines and websites that are free and confidential Remind them that you and the education setting take all forms of Violence Against Women and Girls very seriously and there is a child protection procedure that will be followed if they want to disclose.

Animation on dealing with disclosure of Violence Against Women and Girls.

Receive – Reassure – Respond

It can help to keep in mind the three steps outlined below – but it is most important to follow your education settings local child protection procedures. Adapted from Women’s Aid [93]:

RECEIVE

  • listen, do not look shocked or disbelieving;
  • do not be judgemental;
  • take what they are saying seriously and  believe them;
  • do not ask probing questions or suggest answers. It may undermine any investigation by the police or enquiry by Children’s Social Care Services if it looks as if the child has been asked leading questions or given suggestions with regard to their answers. The Police, Children’s Social Care Services and the NSPCC are the only organisations that have legal powers to investigate allegations of child abuse.
  • do not make the child or young person feel  bad, for example, by saying things like “You should have told me earlier”.

REASSURE

  • stay calm, tell them that they have done the right thing in telling you;
  • acknowledge how hard it must have been  to tell you;
  • tell them that they are not to blame;
  • empathise – but don’t tell them how they  should be feeling;
  • don’t promise confidentiality – explain that only those that need to know will be told (i.e. the designated staff member for  child protection);
  • be honest about what you can and cannot do. 

RESPOND

  • do not interrogate – let them tell you as far as possible;
  • do not ask probing questions or suggest  answers – it’s not your job to find out “who,  where, when?”, etc;
  • refer your concern on to your school’s  designated senior manager for child  protection – in line with your child  protection procedures;
  • record the date, time and any information given to you; always use  the words said to you; never interpret what was said or put it in your own words. (This  information could be used as evidence);
  • record what you did next and with whom you shared the information – ensure that all this is in line with your school’s child protection procedures;
  • do not criticise or judge the abuser – the  child or young person may have feelings for him or her; remember abuse often happens  by someone known and trusted by the child or young person;
  • try to follow things through yourself so they do not need to repeat their story to other  staff – again, only if this is in line with your child protection procedures;
  • explain what will happen next – for example, the designated officer will be informed, and they may want to speak to the child/young person further. If it is safe, the non-abusing parent or carer might also be informed (but always take great care where there is  domestic abuse). The Police and Children’s Ssocial Care Services might also be informed;
  • get support for yourself. It can be distressing dealing with this type of  information.

Adapted by Women’s Aid for their Expect Respect Educational Toolkit from ‘Standing By’, Cheshire County Council

When listening to a child or young person, try to make sense of what you are being told:

  • are they currently being harmed?
  • are they likely to be harmed in the future?
  • is anyone else at risk of being harmed?
  • do they need medical attention?
  • what are their overall needs?
  • what is important to them?

If the child or young person tells you about past abuse that they have experienced and you do not think that there is any risk of that abuse recurring to the child, this should still be referred to your child protection lead or to social services. Social services may then discuss this with the parent or carer as to whether further action needs to be taken. You need to be clear with the child that you may still have a duty to report the matter to the relevant statutory body.

What to do if a young person or adult (over 18) tells you about their experience of violence:

Whilst it is essential to report disclosures of violence experienced by children under 18 to safeguard them from harm; it is not the same for adults and it is important to maintain confidentiality when adults disclose violence. Unless there are children at risk, for example if there are children in their home where she has disclosed domestic violence, or if they are considered to be high risk or deemed to be ‘vulnerable’.

 There is no duty to report but if you have any concerns that a child could also be at risk or serious concerns and need someone to talk to contact your organisation’s child protection lead.

If a young person who is over 18 discloses their experiences of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) there is not the same legal obligation to report to social services, unless they have children that could be at risk.

Respond:

  • Listen carefully, stay calm, and validate her feelings
  • Take it seriously and ensure her that you are on her side, but do not make promises that you will not be able to keep.
  • Do not push her to talk about it if she does not want to.
  • Do not judge her. Maintain confidentiality if she is over 18.

Inform:

  • Provide her with information of relevant support services that she can contact herself or refer directly if requested.
  • Encourage her to seek some form of support.
  • Inform her of next steps and possible options.

Support:

  • Offer immediate support, understanding and reassurance.
  • Find yourself support as it can be distressing to listen to others

Follow the flow charts

There are some very useful safeguarding flow charts developed by the AVA for the Home Office in this document: Teenage Relationship Abuse Guidance for Teachers.

The education organisation will probably have flow charts within the child protection policy and procedure and it is important that these are followed.