Child protection policy

This document sets out OSARCC’s policy and procedure with regard to suspected or known child abuse. It is intended to provide volunteers, staff and trustees with guidance on procedures they should adopt in the event they receive a disclosure or suspect that a child is experiencing or at risk of significant harm.

1. Legal Context

OSARCC recognises that all children have the right to equal protection from all types of harm and abuse and that we have a responsibility and commitment to protect children who are at risk from significant harm.

1.1 Article 19 on the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child:

This act states that in all respects, all measures should be taken to:

“Protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s) legal guardians or any other person who has the care of the child.”

1.2 The Children Act 1989:

This act defines a child as a person under the age of 18 years. The fact that a child is 16 years old and may be living independently, or is in further education, is a member of the armed forces, is in hospital, or in custody, does not change their status as a child or their entitlement to services and protection under the act.

The same act introduced the concept of significant harm as the threshold. The act places a statutory duty on local authorities to make enquiries to decide whether they should take action to safeguard and/or promote the welfare of a child who is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. Local authorities may then act to intervene in family life in the best interests of children. The welfare of a child is deemed to be paramount.

1.3 Definitions:

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children involves:

  1. Protecting children from maltreatment
  2. Preventing the impairment of children’s health or development
  3. Ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care

In line with government guidelines “Working Together to Safeguard Children and Young People” and the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board (OSCB), we use the following definitions:

1. Physical abuse

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

2. Emotional abuse

This 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:

  1. Conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person
  2. Not giving the child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or ‘making fun’ of what they say or how they communicate.
  3. Age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. These 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.
  4. Seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying (including cyber bullying), causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children, or witnessing domestic violence.

Important Note: Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.

3. Sexual abuse

This 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 of what is happening. The activities may involve:

  1. Physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing.
  2. 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)

Important note: Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.

4. Neglect

This 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. Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse, domestic violence, significant mental health or learning difficulties.

5. Other types of abuse

OSARCC recognises that there will be may forms of abuse covered within and falling outside of the categories listed above. These may include:

  • Child sexual exploitation
  • Self- harm
  • Cyber bulling
  • Fabricated or induced illness
  • Forced marriage
  • Huma trafficking/modern slavery
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Radicalisation
  • Non-recent abuse
  • Domestic abuse
  • Financial abuse

Some common signs that something concerning is happening in a child’s life:

  • unexplained changes in behaviour or personality
  • becoming withdrawn
  • seeming anxious
  • becoming uncharacteristically aggressive
  • lacks social skills and has few friends, if any
  • poor bond or relationship with a parent
  • knowledge of adult issues inappropriate for their age
  • running away or going missing
  • always choosing to wear clothes which cover their body.

2. Policy

2.1 In line with our organisational principles:

We will support girls* (anyone under the age of 18) in the same way that we do all our women* service users: remaining non-directive, challenging self-blame, offering unconditional belief, and providing confidentiality. (* see Transgender policy)

2.2 In line with our safeguarding commitments we recognise the:

  1. Special vulnerability of children by virtue of their dependence on adults for their well-being and safety.
  2. Particular dilemmas for children and young people in telling about abuse. They may need time and reassurance to be able to tell and they will only do so when they feel ready and safe to do so.

Some children may use the services of OSARCC to get reassurance. However, as an organisation, OSARCC is clear that children cannot be the sole arbiters of their safety. The responsibility for investigating child abuse rests with local authority safeguarding professionals.

We have a commitment to safeguarding children which means that if we have information we believe to be relevant OSARCC has a duty to pass this on to professionals who will act to safeguard the child. Where we are supporting someone and have information where we believe there is a child experiencing or at risk of significant harm, OSARCC has a responsibility to seek advice from and/or report relevant information to the local authority where appropriate and possible. Information we have may directly relate to the service user we are working with, or a third party, OSARCC obligations do not change in either circumstance and if we have information about risks to children we must seek advice.

Relevant information includes a name, address/telephone number, and/or other details about the child/the child’s circumstances, and a name, address/telephone number, and/or other details about a known/ suspected perpetrator.

2.3 OSARCC seeks to safeguard children by:

  1. Adopting child protection guidelines and procedures for staff and volunteers
  2. Recruiting staff and volunteers safely, ensuring all appropriate checks are made, including enhanced DBS checks and a minimum of two reference checks
  3. Ensuring children safeguarding information and best practice is shared with staff, volunteers and service users and that all OSARCC workers are aware of their safeguarding responsibilities
  4. Providing effective management for staff and volunteers through supervision, support and training
  5. Nominating a designated safeguarding officer who will attend regular training
  6. Ensure that all staff and volunteers have up to date safeguarding training

Ensure that all staff and volunteers have appropriate supervision and support around safeguarding concerns

3. Procedure

3.1 Recruitment and training

OSARCC staff and volunteers are trained on both physical and behavioural signs of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect.  This forms part of the training programme which all service user workers are required to undertake prior to their work commencing with OSARCC.

All staff are required to have up to date Childrens Safeguarding training through the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board which is renewed every two years. All Designated Safeguarding Leads (DSL) are required to have up to date DSL training which is renewed every 2 years.

Child protection policy and procedure is made available at all times to all persons working on behalf of OSARCC.  Further information and training is provided as and when necessary, i.e. amendments in the law / codes of good practice or any changes as a result of policy reviews.

All volunteers, staff and trustees are required to undergo a DBS Check relevant to their role to ensure their suitability of involvement with OSARCC before they begin work. (See DBS policy). All staff, volunteers, and trustees must also provide two references.

3.2 Listening Service

If you suspect the caller to be a child:

  1. Attempt to ascertain their age by asking if they are under 18.
  2. If you understand them to be under the age of 18, or are in any doubt about their age, and may be about to disclose information that she/he is being abused, explain our child protection policy: that we have a commitment to safeguarding children and that if we are given information we believe to be relevant OSARCC has a duty to pass this on to professionals who will act to safeguard the child.
  3. This should be explained to the caller as soon as possible to ensure they understand the procedure. There will be instances when it is not clear if the caller is a child. All callers need support and reassurance.
  4. We will actively signpost any caller we believe to be a child to services that exist to support children and young people and explore with them options for support in other areas of their life. We will not tell a child what to do. Please refer to our signposting sheet for more information.

If you suspect an adult or child is about to disclose information about another child being abused or at risk of significant harm:

  1. Explain our child protection policy: that we have a commitment to safeguarding children and that if we are given information we believe to be relevant OSARCC has a duty to pass this on to professionals who will act to safeguard the child.
  2. This should be explained to the caller as soon as possible to ensure they understand the procedure.

In all cases you should:

  1. Inform the caller that notes are made and why this is.
  2. Remind the caller of the one hour time limit for all calls. This is to set a manageable boundary for both the caller and the line worker.
  3. You need to be alert to the possibility that a child caller could be a danger to another child or adult. Concerns with regard to this should be raised via the usual reporting system.
  4. If you suspect a child to be at risk and/or have explained our child protection policy to any service user, inform the line buddy at the end of your shift (see chart at the end of this document). You may also raise concerns directly with the Services Manager should you wish. Beyond reporting to the line buddy you have no further obligations and must continue to support any caller as normal. Any action to be taken is the responsibility of the staff team, in line with the process flow charts at the end of this document.

Best practice when responding to child callers needs to include giving key messages:

  • You believe what the child is saying.
  • You recognise their bravery in talking.
  • What has happened is not their fault.
  • The person who did this to them is responsible for what they did and the consequences.
  • Keeping secrets only ever protects abusers and never protects children.
  • In order to protect children, we may need to talk to professionals who can act.

3.3 Email Service

Our email service often provides us with the contact email of a service user. We may advise service users to use a service such as hush mail if they wish to remain completely anonymous.

If you suspect either:

  1. The service user is a child or
  2. That an adult or child may be about to disclose information about a child being abused

Explain our child protection policy

This should be explained to the service user as soon as possible to ensure they understand the procedure.

  1. If you suspect a child to be at risk and/or have explained our child protection policy to any service user, inform the line buddy at the end of your shift (see chart at the end of this document). You may also raise concerns directly with the Services Manager should you wish. Beyond reporting to the line buddy you have no further obligations and must continue to support any service users as normal. Any action to be taken is the responsibility of the staff team In line with the process flow chart at the end of this document.
  2. We will actively signpost any emailer we believe to be a child to services that exist to support children and young people and explore with them options for support in other areas of their life. We will not tell a child what to do. Please refer to our signposting sheet for more information.

3.4 Text Service

Our text service does not provide us with the contact number of a service user.

If you suspect either:

  • The service user is a child or
  • That an adult or child may be about to disclose information about a child being abused
  1. Explain our child protection policy
  2. This should be explained to the service user as soon as possible to ensure they understand the procedure.
  3. If you suspect a child to be at risk and/or have explained our child protection policy to any service user, inform the line buddy at the end of your shift (see chart at the end of this document). You may also raise concerns directly with the Services Manager should you wish. Beyond reporting to the line buddy you have no further obligations and must continue to support any service users as normal. Any action to be taken is the responsibility of the staff team In line with the process flow chart at the end of this document.
  4. We will actively signpost any texter we believe to be a child to services that exist to support children and young people and explore with them options for support in other areas of their life. We will not tell a child what to do. Please refer to our signposting sheet for more information.

3.5 Face to Face Work

Our face to face work makes identifying individuals much easier, and we do hold identifying details about service users. Confidentiality and its limits are discussed with service users at the earliest possible opportunity (see support services information sheets). Safeguarding processes must also be discussed with all service users at an initial meeting.

If you suspect that an adult may be about to disclose information about a child at risk:

  1. Explain our child protection policy: that we have a commitment to safeguarding children and that if we are given information we believe to be relevant OSARCC has a duty to pass this on to professionals who will act to safeguard the child.
  2. This should be explained to the service user as soon as possible to ensure they understand the procedure.
  3. If you suspect a child to be at risk and/or have explained our child protection policy to any service user, inform the Services Manager as soon as possible who will support you to agree a course of action. must continue to support any service user as normal. During out of hours work workers will be expected to call one of the two named safeguarding leads for advice. Where contact cannot be made staff are expected to use their judgement to manage the situation, for example calling 999 in the case of an emergency, or undertaking a ‘no names’ consultation with the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).

3.6 If a Service User is Suspected of Abusing a Child

If you are given information or suspect that a service user is abusing a child or behaving in a way likely to cause significant harm:

  1. Explain our child protection policy, that we have a commitment to safeguarding and that the welfare of children is paramount.
  2. The service user needs to be told we have a duty to pass on our concerns to the professionals who can act to safeguard the child.
  3. If you suspect a child to be at risk and/or have explained our child protection policy to any service user, you must explain to that if we have reason to believe a child is at risk, you have to talk to someone in the organisation about this, this may be the service lead, or the Services Manager. Explain that where we feel we have a duty to pass on information, this will be done in conversation with the Service User. Beyond this, continue the session as normal, and refer to the escalation chart at the end of the document.

4. Conduct of OSARCC’s workers towards children

If you have information or suspicions that an OSARCC worker or volunteer has behaved in a way which has caused harm to a child or exposed a child to harm or behaved in a way which renders her unsuitable to work with children in her role for OSARCC or any other capacity, this must be passed on to the Services Manager/Director. Any allegations made against a staff member or volunteer must be referred to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)  0345 050 7666 within 24 hours of the allegation.

If the worker then resigns from OSARCC service, this will not prevent an investigation being undertaken. OSARCC is committed to resolving concerns about the welfare of children, as quickly as possible to ensure the best outcome for the child and the worker.

5. Confidentiality and Information Sharing

Confidentiality can only be breached if:

  1. A service user talks of known or suspected ongoing abuse of a child about whom relevant information is disclosed.
  2. Relevant information includes a name, address/telephone number, and/or other details about the child/the child’s circumstances.
  3. This should be made clear as soon as possible to anyone to whom this policy is explained.

The OSARCC helpline, email and text service is confidential and anonymous. As such, information that comes from the helpline or email service is very hard to verify and substantiate. Therefore, when there is a need to pass on information in the interests of a child or young person, OSARCC will only pass on relevant information.

6. How/When We Inform Service Users that We’re Taking Action

We are committed to being as transparent as possible with service users who have disclosed risk of significant harm or actual significant harm to children. In addition to making our policy clear to all service users (who are either a child themselves or may be about to disclose information about a child) and informing them that notes are taken for all OSARCC services and relevant information reviewed, we will seek to inform service users where possible before passing on any relevant information outside OSARCC.

7. Making a safeguarding referral

Best practice in making safeguarding referrals is based on the principles of Human Rights legislation, including the Data Protection Act, and needs to be consistent with OSARCC’s information sharing guidance

This means that the informed consent of the person thought to be at risk should be gained to the referral unless they are unable to give that consent

Reasons for not being able to consent include:

  • Being younger than 13 years of age – in which case parental consent should be sought (if safe to do so)
  • Being 13-16 years of age but without sufficient maturity or other reasons (such as a learning disability) to be able to give informed consent (Follow the Fraser guidelines) – in which case parental consent should be sought (if safe to do so)
  • Being over the age of 16 without mental capacity to make the decision to give or refuse consent to the referral – even with effective support- due to an “impairment of mind” (Mental Capacity Act 2005) in which case parental consent should be sought (if safe to do so)
  • Being constraint from making a free and informed decision due to fear or coercion (case law – Court of Protection)
  • Workers needing to make the decision being unable to contact the person at risk – e.g. because it is unsafe to do so

The Seven golden rules of data sharing should also be considered:

  1. Remember that the Data Protection Act is not a barrier to sharing information but provides a framework to ensure that personal information about living persons is shared appropriately.
  2. Be open and honest with the person (and/or their family where appropriate) from the outset about why, what, how and with whom information will, or could be shared, and seek their agreement, unless it is unsafe or inappropriate to do so.
  3. Seek advice if you are in any doubt, without disclosing the identity of the person where possible.
  4. Share with consent where appropriate and, where possible, respect the wishes of those who do not consent to share confidential information. You may still share information without consent if, in your judgement, that lack of consent can be overridden in the public interest. You will need to base your judgement on the facts of the case.
  5. Consider safety and well-being: Base your information sharing decisions on considerations of the safety and well-being of the person and others who may be affected by their actions.
  6. Necessary, proportionate, relevant, accurate, timely and secure: Ensure that the information you share is necessary for the purpose for which you are sharing it, is shared only with those people who need to have it, is accurate and up-to-date, is shared in a timely fashion, and is shared securely.
  7. Keep a record of your decision and the reasons for it – whether it is to share information or not. If you decide to share, then record what you have shared, with whom and for what purpose.

Extract from HM Government Information Sharing: Guidance for practitioners and managers.

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