West Lothian Child Protection Committee
 

 


|  WHAT IS ABUSE?  |

What to do if you are concerned about a child: 

All children and young people have the right to be protected and kept safe from harm from others. We all have a responsibility to help protect children and young people – whether we work with children or families, are a parent, family member or a concerned member of the community. Children and young people should get the help they need when they need it – and we all have a part to play in ensuring this.

Why might you be concerned about a child?

Children sometimes tell if they are being abused. However, there may be signs, which make you concerned and may be an indication of a child being abused or neglected. 

West Lothian Child Protection Committee

 What is abuse?

  • Physical injury (being hit, kicked, punched)

  • Physical neglect (not being properly fed, clothed, washed, supervised)

  • Sexual abuse (inappropriate sexual behaviour, language, assault, exposure to pornography)

  • Emotional abuse (constantly criticised, ignored, humiliated, exposed to domestic violence)

 You may notice one, or a combination of the following - the child or young person may:

  • have unexplained bruising or bruising in an unusual place;

  • appear afraid, quiet or withdrawn;

  • be afraid to go home;

  • appear constantly hungry, tired or untidy;

  • be left unattended or unsupervised;

  • have too much responsibility for their age;

  • be acting in a sexually inappropriate way;

  • be misusing drugs or alcohol;

  • tell you something that sounds as though someone has hurt them.

The behaviour of adults may cause you concern if they:

  • are acting in an aggressive, violent or sexual manner towards a child or young  person;

  • are misusing drink or drugs while caring for a child;

  • leave their child unattended or with unsuitable adults

What to do if you have concerns

If you see behaviour that is of concern, or if a child or young person tells you something, you need to take them seriously, do something about it, and speak to someone. This could be a teacher, doctor, health visitor, social worker, police officer or nursery staff. 

To ensure a child gets the best possible help:

  • give as much information as you can about the child or young person and their family/carer;

  • describe what it was that you saw or heard and what it was that concerned you;

  • let the person know if there are other things they should be aware of, for example, immediate risks for the child or any other child.

Will you need to give your name?

Any information about you will be treated with care. Any details, including your name, will not be revealed unless the child’s safety requires it.  Even if you do not give your name, enquiries can still be made into the child’s care and welfare. Withholding your name may make it more difficult for those looking into these concerns. Any information you give may need to be shared with other professionals to ensure appropriate action is taken to protect the child.


CONTACT DETAILS

West Lothian Social Work

Livingston office - Tel: 01506 282252
Bathgate office -
Tel: 01506 776700
Broxburn office -
Tel: 01506 775666
Out of Office Hours Emergency -
Tel: 01506 281028

Police  -  Tel: 01506 431200
 

What will happen to the child or young person and their family?

When you contact a professional about your concern, unless the child is in immediate danger, they will make some initial enquiries before taking action. They will check whether the child is known and what information is held. All information will be treated seriously and acted upon. This may lead to immediate action or a more planned response. Following enquiries professionals may, for example:

  • take immediate action to secure the safety of the child;

  • provide support, help or advice to the family;

  • provide a service to the child or family (for example help with parenting) and, where necessary, referral to another agency may be provided;

  • conduct criminal enquiries;

  • record the concern but take no further action

What usually happens during a Child Protection Investigation?

Social Work staff and the Police have a legal responsibility to investigate any concerns, (Health staff have a duty to assist) which suggest that a child has been abused or is at risk of abuse.  

At all times the welfare of the child comes first. Usually the Social Worker and the Police will want to:

  • Speak to the child

  • Speak to the parent/carer

  • Speak to other relevant people (e.g. family members, teacher, health visitor etc.)

  • Make further enquiries if necessary

  • Discuss with Health staff whether it is necessary for the child to have a medical examination.

It is recognised that this is a stressful time for children and families. It is important that:

  • Families understand what is happening

  • Parents’ views and the child’s views are listened to

Usually Police and Social Work will seek consent prior to interviewing the child. However, in some circumstances this might not be possible. In such circumstances the reason why the child was interviewed or other action taken without a parent’s knowledge or consent will be explained at a later stage. Where a parent refuses to give consent other legal measures may be considered. The child will be interviewed by specially trained Social Workers and Police Officers. Usually Social Workers and the Police will seek the child’s consent to be interviewed or medically examined (this will depend on the child’s age and level of understanding.)  

What happens at a medical examination?

If it is agreed that a medical examination is necessary the child will be examined by a Children’s Doctor (paediatrician) to make sure there are no injuries or other problems (e.g. poor growth, infections) that require treatment. In some cases there may be a Police Doctor present too. If there are any injuries these may be photographed by the Police for evidence. The Doctor will explain everything that is happening and if further tests or treatment are required. 

What will happen after the investigation?

  • No further action

  • Support or advice offered to the family

  • An Initial Child Protection Case Conference is arranged to consider the risks to the child and to make a plan to protect him/her

  • Voluntary arrangements may be made for the child to live with a family member, friend or foster parent

  • Further legal action may be taken to protect the child

  • The Children's Reporter may be advised of investigations and may wish to make further enquiries or arrange a Children's Hearing

In the majority of cases, children are not removed from their homes and continue to live with their own families with help and support as required.

Legal advice

Families can obtain legal advice from:

  • A solicitor

  • Child Law Centre - Freephone 0800 328 8970

  • Parentline - 0808 800 2222

What happens at a Child Protection Case Conference?

Following investigation, Social Work, Police and Health decide whether a case conference is necessary. An independent Chairperson on behalf of West Lothian’s Child Protection Committee chairs the meeting. People who know the family and child, or who were involved in the investigation, are invited to attend the Case Conference - e.g. health visitor, teacher, doctor, police officer, social worker etc. 

Parents/carers are invited to attend the Case Conference and in some cases the child may also wish to attend. There may be part of the Case Conference which parents will not be able to attend if professionals have to discuss matters they cannot share with them - e.g. the Police may have information about someone else which they cannot share. The Chairperson meets parents before the Case Conference and explains all this. Parents’ views will be listened to and they are given the chance to correct any information which they think is wrong. 

If parents do not attend, the Chairperson will want to make sure that the Case Conference is aware of their views. Parents can send written information or ask the Social Worker to present their views. The Social Worker sees parents as soon as possible after the meeting to tell them the decisions. Parents also receive a copy of the minutes.    

People at the Case Conference:

  • Share information about the matters causing concern

  • Review any decisions or action taken so far

  • Decide whether the child is at risk and whether their name should be placed on the Child Protection Register

  • Agree a Child Protection Plan

  • Agree a Core Group (the people who will support the family and child)

  • Agree a date for a Review Case Conference (within 6 months). This meeting will consider whether the child is still at risk and whether registration should continue

After a Case Conference

After a Case Conference the Core Group, which parents are usually part of, meets regularly to make sure everyone is working together to reduce the risks to the child. The need for any additional support will be discussed at these meetings.

 

Website by Social Policy Information Team