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Reporting a Safeguarding Concern? 4 Steps You Should Know

If you’re worried about the wellbeing of a child or a case of abuse or maltreatment has already occurred, you must report it immediately. The steps you take at this time are important, but it can be confusing for someone doing it for the first time, especially if they want to ensure no further emotional or physical harm befalls an involved party.

Here are the steps you need to know, from how to report a concern to what happens next.

  1. Know What Constitutes a Safeguarding Concern
  2. Reporting Safeguarding Concerns: The First Steps
  3. What Happens After a Report
  4. Seek Further Advice Where Necessary

1. Know What Constitutes a Safeguarding Concern

People in need fall into two categories.

Children in Need

Under the Children Act 1989, a child in need is defined as one who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable level of health or development. It could also mean a child whose health and/or development is likely to be impaired or a child who is disabled.

Local authorities are required by law to provide services to children in need to both safeguard them and promote their welfare and development.

Children Suffering or Likely to Suffer Significant Harm

Under section 47 of the Children Act 1989, it’s the legal and moral responsibility of authorities or organisations to make enquiries or take action in regards to any suspected abuse or maltreatment. 

If there are any concerns regarding maltreatment with either of these categories, direct action must be taken. This may be the gathering of information or the notifying of an authority.

If you have a suspicion of maltreatment cases such as abuse, neglect, radicalisation, sexual exploitation or other concerns, it’s time to raise your concerns via the following steps...

2. Reporting Safeguarding Concerns: The First Steps

Here are the steps you can take when first reporting a circumstance of abuse or maltreatment:

  • If a child or young person has approached you, make sure they know they have done the right thing.
  • Listen carefully to their story and respect their rights.
  • Notify the child or young person that only the people who need to know will be informed.
  • Don’t try to solve the situation yourself or confront anyone.
  • Remember to take all claims seriously.
  • Write up their narrative, giving as much detail as possible. Remember to include date and time, what was said and any names and locations.
  • Don’t disclose any information to non-relevant parties.
  • Contact your DSL immediately and inform them of the situation using the report you made. The DSL will directly contact any child protection agency, the police or simply provide further advice.
  • If the DSL is unavailable and you believe the situation to warrant further action, contact a child protection agency or the police.

After the disclosure, take these steps:

  • Make a report of what you’ve seen and any evidence that would support your claim, including time and date. Do this in line with your educational organisation’s child protection policy.
  • Report what you have seen to a superior or a designated safeguarding lead (DSL) who will then take the issue further if they see fit. The DSL should always be available to support this process.

Governmental Reporting Flowchart

The following is a flowchart intended to describe the appropriate course of action for reporting a safeguarding concern, as put forward by the government. It details the actions you must take on behalf of the school, care or education provider and the actions carried out by any external agency.

Screenshot 2019-12-13 at 14-14-03

Image credit: Keeping children safe in education

3. What Happens After a Report

If you’ve called a protection agency or the police, they will take your report and act on it accordingly. If you’ve given your report to a DSL, they may simply contact a further authority while making sure the head of your organisation is aware of the issue. Furthermore, these parties may:

  • Make efforts to gain more information surrounding the concern.
  • Inquire with any relevant social worker about historical information or ask them to seek out evidence.
  • Take immediate action if they think the child is severely at risk.

Within one day of an official report being made, a local social worker will decide which type of response to the concern is required. 

If a social worker decides to carry out a statutory assessment, staff members and the DSL must support this with their full capabilities.

Depending on the situation after this point, the process may be escalated to a higher authority.

4. Seek Further Advice Where Necessary

If you think abuse or maltreatment is being carried out against someone vulnerable but you’re still unsure of what to do, get in touch with a child protection agency using the following numbers.

  • NSPCC (for adults): 0808 800 5000
  • Childline (for children): 0800 1111

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