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Hello, and welcome to Introduction to Safeguarding Children, Part 1, in which we will discuss what abuse is, including brief legislative context and an overview of the four categories of Child Abuse.

The main legislative framework for Safeguarding Children sits in The Children Act of 1989. Section 17 of the Children Act establishes the definition of a child in need, and Section 47 sets a statutory duty for child protection enquiries.

This is Core to everything we will talk about.

Working Together to Safeguard Children (which will be referred to as simply working together for the rest of this presentation) is a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The image here is a hyperlink to that document. If you click on the image, it will take you away from this presentation, over to the webpage where you can open up working together.

Working together firmly establishes the premise that Safeguarding is ‘Everybody’s Responsibility’, stating: Everyone who works with children has a responsibility for keeping them safe. No single practitioner can have a full picture of a child’s needs and circumstances and, if children and families are to receive the right help at the right time, everyone who comes into contact with them has a role to play in identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action

A child in need is defined under S.17 of the Children Act 1989 as a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a satisfactory level of health or development, or their health and development will be significantly impaired, without the provision of services; or a child who is disabled. In these situations, assessments by a social worker are carried out under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, with the consent of the parents or carers and of the young person where they are Gillick or Fraser competent.

Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 places a duty on LAs to investigate and make inquiries into the circumstances of children considered to be at risk of ‘significant harm’ and, where these inquiries indicate the need, to decide what action, if any, it may need to take to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare.

Both Sections 17 and 47 require an assessment of the family by the local authority, in which the child’s views must be considered. Section 47 includes assessment of immediate risk and gives powers to the local authority to take action to protect the child.

These variations in need and response are broken down further in Working together, and, specific to our local area in, Effective support for Children and Families in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

There is no absolute criteria for ‘Significant Harm’. From S. 31 of the Children Act, we get a definition of Harm as follows:

  • ‘Harm’ means ill treatment, or the impairment of health or development, including, for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another;

And in this context,

  • ‘Health’ includes physical and mental health;
  • Development’ includes physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development;
  • And ‘Ill treatment’ includes Sexual Abuse and forms of ill treatment, which are not physical;

Significant Harm is a complex set of factors, taking into account the individual experience and views of the child and their family.

Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment of a child. Abuse may be perpetrated by an adult, a group of adults, or another child or group of children. And it can happen anywhere, including in the home or in an institutional or community setting.

Working Together includes definitions of 4 categories of child abuse: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. These categories overlap, and a child may experience 1 or more at a time.

I am not going to spend a lot of time on statistics, but want to show you a few charts that give a good sense of local and national picture.

Most importantly, it is important to acknowledge that abuse does happen, and it happens everywhere. As of March 2019, Cambridgeshire had 768 Looked After Children, and 528 children on a Child Protection Plan.

Peterborough had 369 Looked After Children and 210 children on a Child Protection Plan.

For both areas, neglect is the most common type of abuse experienced, followed by emotional abuse, which fits with national trends as well.

Here you can see local data, by local authority. For both areas, neglect is the most common type of abuse experienced, followed by emotional abuse.

And year on year, this trend continues, both locally and nationally, as this chart shows.

When we talk about child abuse, there is a very good chance that most people will think first of physical abuse; the causing of physical harm.

Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. This includes when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces illness in a child.

Its really important to know that bruising in pre-mobile babies is very rare, and while there may be occasions in which there is a reasonable explanation, any bruising in a pre-mobile baby should be reported and investigated.

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough protocol for assessment, management and referral of Pre-Mobile babies with bruising is available here.

Essentially, any bruising in pre-mobile babies needs to be referred to Childrens Social Care , who will arrange an urgent medical examination by a senior paediatrician.

Children who are mobile, on the other hand, are very likely to have bumps and bruises from minor accidents. The sites for most accidental injuries are the bony prominences- think shins, knees, elbows, forehead. Hips, chins, forearms. The parts of the body that jut out and are likely to run into something.

Bruising to softer parts of the body is harder to explain and more likely to be non-accidental.

Suspicious marks might include:

  • Bruising or other wounds on the thighs, buttocks or abdomen
  • Grasp marks on the chest, shoulders or neck
  • Bruising or tears to the ears, mouth or eyes,
  • Cigarette burns
  • Twisting fractures

Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware what is happening.

The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (e.g. rape or oral sex)or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing or touching outside of the clothing.

Sexual abuse also includes non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet).

While stereotypes might suggest that Sexual abuse is only perpetrated by adult males, it is important to recognise, just as with other types of abuse, women can commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.

A quick note on age of consent- In law, children under 16 cannot consent to sexual activity, although in practice young people may be involved in sexual contact that they have agreed to. Children under 13 cannot in law, under any circumstances, consent to sexual activity.

This is the National Definition of Child Sexual Exploitation, launched in 2016

‘Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity in exchange for (a) something the victim wants, and/or (b) the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always include physical contact; it can also occur through use of technology

Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to a child that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate or valued only in so far as they meet the needs of another person. It may include not giving the child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or ‘making fun’ of what they say or how they communicate.

Emotional abuse may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children.

Click directly on the images on this slide to flip through them, and think about how they relate to emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction.

It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying (including cyberbullying) causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.

Emotional abuse is big and nebulous and very hard to define succinctly. Emotional Abuse could be:

  • Humiliating or constantly criticising a child
  • Threatening, shouting or calling them names
  • Making the child subject of jokes or using sarcasm to hurt the child
  • Blaming, scapegoating
  • Making a child perform degrading acts
  • Not recognising a child’s individuality, trying to control their lives
  • Pushing the child too hard, not recognising their limitations
  • Exposing a child to distressing events such as domestic abuse or drug taking
  • Failure to promote a child’s social development
  • Not allowing them to have friends
  • Persistently ignoring them
  • Being absent
  • Manipulating a child
  • Never saying anything kind, expressing positive feelings or congratulating a child on successes
  • Never showing any emotions in interactions with a child, also known as emotional neglect.

This can make it challenging to identify..

Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development.

Before a child is born, neglect can happen if there is maternal substance misuse.

Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to provide the things a child needs to thrive, including adequate food, clothing and shelter. This includes exclusion from the home or abandonment

Neglect includes failing to protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger; this includes ensuring adequate supervision (so, not using inappropriate care-givers)

Neglect includes failing to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment; And it includes unresponsiveness to a child’s basic emotional needs.

Neglect is tricky, and a whole course in its own right. It can feel like it requires professionals to be judgmental about parenting or housekeeping or life choices. It is imperative to keep in mind the lived experience of the child that you are concerned about. On our website, we have a neglect resource pack with several Tools available to help If you have concerns about neglect, including

  • Assessment tools;
  • The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Neglect Strategy; and
  • information sheets for Parents and for Professionals

Within those 4 broad categories of abuse, there are several specialist areas to explore further. Domestic Abuse is a key concern at the moment, with stay-at- home measures potentially increasing risk in families. Other areas include forced marriage, so call honour based violence, female genital mutilation, online abuse, Child Criminal Exploitation, radicalisation, and trafficking. More information and further resources are available for each of these areas on our website.

Abuse can take place in any family and from every social group. It is very important not to disregard concerns you have for a child based on where they live, who their parents know, or any specific defining characteristics.


The most important step in diagnosing non-accidental injury is to force yourself to think about it in the first place

The biggest barrier to diagnosis is the existence of emotional blocks in the minds of professionals. These can be so powerful that they prevent the diagnosis being considered in quite obvious cases.

If you are concerned about a child, the question is not ‘What if I am wrong?’. The question is, ‘What if I am right’

If you are concerned about a child, talk to your manager or safeguarding lead. You should work together to decide what steps need to be taken next, in line with your organisation’s safeguarding procedures

If you need to report a safeguarding concern, guidance, forms and contact details are available on our website. If you click on this screenshot, it will take you away from this presentation, directly to the relevant section of the website.

Thank you for taking time to go through this presentation.

In Part 2, we will look at indicators of abuse in greater details. We will discuss how to respond when a child discloses abuse, and specific advice for reporting a safeguarding referral. If you have any questions regarding the content of this presentation, please email them to


  1. reading this document has made even more profound. the studies i have undertaken , and put into place since. much appreciated yet sad reminder.

  2. This was an excellent training resource clearly explaining all areas of safeguarding and the procedures needed to be followed should a concern be raised.

  3. This learning is very informative, extensive and educational. It is thoroughly laid out for everyone to understand and so far this is the most comprehensive training I’ve ever done and the most useful one to this society we live in.

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