Child Protection Policy & Procedures based on Working Together to Safeguard Children Document
Role of North Devon Against Domestic Abuse (NDADA) in protecting children from harm
NDADA seeks to work towards an end to violence against women and children. This includes abuse to children from perpetrators from whom they are fleeing, their mothers, siblings or other adults and children. NDADA accepts and recognises our responsibilities to develop awareness of issues which cause children harm. The safety and wellbeing of children comes before the safety and wellbeing of women or adult children.
The designated Safeguarding Officer for NDADA is Rachel Tossell: firstname.lastname@example.org
NDADA recognises four types of child abuse:
Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, or scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be when a parent or carer feigns the symptoms of or deliberately causes ill health to a child whom they are looking after. This situation is commonly described using terms such as factitious illness by proxy or Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy.
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. It may involve causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill-treatment of a child, though it may occur alone.
Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative (e.g., rape or buggery) or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, failing to protect a child from physical harm or danger, or the failure to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to a child’s basic emotional needs.
Women’s Aid workers are witness to family dynamics as they are often working in the home of women and children. In the case of refuge staff they can spend eight hours a day working alongside families, providing vital support and information in the protection of children.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
FGM (also known as female circumcision) is a form of child abuse and an act of violence against women and girls. FGM can have serious health consequences and in some instances can lead to death. It is therefore a safeguarding issue requiring an urgent response. A referral must be made to the police and/or the MASH if the practice is suspected.
It is illegal to practice FGM in the UK. It is also illegal to take a child abroad for FGM even if legal in that country. Prevention of FGM is critical and the safeguarding procedures outlined in this document must be adhered to in all cases where FGM is suspected.
Practice guidance has been issued by the UK government to help professionals to recognise and respond to FGM: Multi-agency statutory guidance on female genital mutilation
The management team will endeavour to safeguard children by ensuring that this document containing policies and procedures are adhered to, that all staff and volunteers receive supervision, support and training. The management team will also regularly review and change if necessary child protection procedures. All new staff when recruited are subject to an enhanced Criminal Record Bureau check and will not be allowed to work unsupervised until such a check has successfully been completed. Staff will receive child protection training delivered by Devon County Social Services Department.
It is accepted and understood by all at NDADA that we as an organisation and as individuals are not responsible or permitted to judge if there is a case of abuse/neglect to a child. But any situation, disclosure or accident that gives information that could indicate abuse/neglect or potentially could lead to abuse/neglect will be acted upon. It is solely the responsibility of the Community Children and Young People’s Service (CYPS) to investigate child protection issues and then deem what actions if any should be taken.
Wherever possible, parents and/or children (if they are of an age or ability to understand) will be informed when confidentiality will be broken on child protection issues. However, the decision to inform a parent and/or child that CYPS will be involved needs to be made carefully, to avoid a parent fleeing and putting the child/children at further risk.
NDADA workers may from time to time be asked to attend child protection conferences. Wherever possible, workers should try to attend these meetings and if unable to do so will send their report to the chair. In these situations it is important that workers provide reports or attend the conference with the best interests of the children in mind, rather than the interests of the parent that they are working with.
NDADA always encourages non-violent forms of discipline of children and views hitting or smacking of children negatively. CYP workers are able to provide information, advice or signposting to parents on positive non-violent discipline.
In the interests of children’s safety it is the duty of all residents living in the refuge to report any incident or concerns of child protection to staff members.
How information will be passed on to CYPS
Any child protection issues that arise or any results from our risk assessment in relation to children or young people, should first be taken to the line manager or if unavailable the manager. If the matter is urgent and neither manager can be contacted a support worker must contact CYPS or the Police without supervision.
If there is no involvement with a social worker already then a worker can make a new child protection referral to CYPS. First a referral is made by telephone (01392 384444 for Devon). It is recommended that the phone call is followed by a letter. The letter will include the name of the children’s worker and the women’s support worker and could include the areas of the Assessment Framework that NDADA consider to be missing to add weight to the referral. The worker should expect a written reply back with outcomes or an update within a week. The enquiry should be chased up with social services until a satisfactory response is received.
If there is already a named social worker and the children’s worker or parent’s support worker are in contact with them it will be more efficient for the organisation and for CYPS for the worker to pass on the information directly to their contact.
Any specific communication made via telephone, letter or fax should be noted clearly in the service users or child’s file, the existence of such information can be communicated to NDADA staff via team meetings, email or by any other reasonable means. Any child protection correspondence received relating to a child will be filled in the same file.
Before receiving services from NDADA
Men and women with children entering our service will be asked if their children have been involved with CYPS and the reason for the involvement. With regard to those living at the refuge, If the child/children are on the child protection register the relevant social services team needs to be informed that the family are now living at the refuge in North Devon as soon as possible.
In the case of children on the Child Protection Register, the CYPS team from where they have come are responsible for that family until they find a permanent place to live in North Devon. This can often be a difficult situation and pressure may need to be put on the team responsible for the family to ensure that they are being taken care of.
It will be made clear with all men, women and children before any kind of face to face work begins, that the exemptions to confidentiality include any disclosures of child abuse/neglect or potential abuse/neglect. It should be explained that confidentiality is held between the individual and the Refuge / Outreach team of NDADA, and not with the one worker.
On leaving the refuge or moving out of area
If there has been CYPS involvement with the family (even if only to be informed that they are living here) then the relevant team must be informed when they leave the refuge, with details of a forwarding address if available.
If a woman chooses to return to her partner or leave the area and a worker has concerns for the wellbeing of her children in this situation then a referral to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) should be made stating these concerns.
When visiting a woman’s home, if there is any reason for concern, e.g. whether there is inappropriate material around, the home is in a dirty and unhealthy condition or the children appear neglected, then concerns should be discussed with the line manager or if unavailable the manager.
If another service user reports the abuse
If another service user has reported the abuse, staff must maintain confidentiality by not discussing the case further with the person reporting it. However, that service user may require support to deal with their feelings around the disclosure. We should keep the identity of the person reporting the abuse in confidence from the alleged abuser.
Discipline of children
NDADA recognises that service users may bring up their children differently and it is important to be sensitive to and tolerant of customs and views which may be held by service users, whilst at the same time making clear what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.
NDADA acknowledges how difficult living in a refuge can be and the effects it can have on children’s behaviour. Staff members will work closely with women through their individual support plan in conjunction with workers to assist them in developing appropriate parenting skills and responses. This will involve giving women practical and emotional support, as well as providing information about support from other agencies (for both them and their children/child). The Family intervention workers will give support to children in the form of one to one sessions.
If smacking, that doesn’t leave a mark and is not to the head or face, is witnessed by other residents or workers, then the issue will be addressed with the mother as soon as possible. All other types of violence, abuse or neglect to children by adults will be reported to MASH immediately. In the case of smacking that doesn’t leave a mark and is not to the head or face the children’s worker will give advice to the mother to help change their discipline style from violent to non violent. However, if the violence becomes more severe or continues, then a referral shall be made to MASH.
Disclosure by a child of abuse
If a disclosure is made by a child that their parent has hit them, then the CYP worker only will clarify with the child, the type of “hit” and if there was any marking. If it was a smack that didn’t leave a mark and was not to the head or face the issue should be discussed with the mother. Appropriate support should be given to the child by the children’s worker in all circumstances.
If the hit was more severe, if the abuse was emotional, sexual or neglectful then the children’s worker should listen but should not ask any questions as the child may be asked lots of questions by the Police or CYPS, and will not want to go through the experience twice. Listen to the child, believe them and reassure them that they have done the right thing in telling you. Then write down as much of the conversation as possible and take this to your line manager or manager if they are unavailable.
A discussion with the line manager or, if unavailable, the manager as to whether it is safe for the mother to be informed that MASH will be involved. Whether the parent is informed of the situation or not, the information will be passed on to MASH. In all cases, the child should be aware that this information cannot be kept a secret.
If the child makes a disclosure about abuse that checks out as historical and has already been investigated by CYPS/Police, then the child should be allowed to talk as much as they need to the Family Intervention Worker (FIW) in confidence, unless new abuse or evidence comes to light. It should be made clear right from the very beginning what type of information a children’s worker will have to tell their parent about. Sometimes a child or young person would want the FIW to tell their parent what they have said, however the child will need to be aware that they have to ask for this and not assume it. Parents should be reminded that their children may wish to speak to the FIW in confidence.
Child as abuser in the refuge
Children from the refuge bullying other children from the refuge in the playroom or elsewhere will not be tolerated. In minor cases of bullying and with the mother’s agreement the issue will be dealt with by the FIW and management team. In cases of more serious bullying, support can be obtained from CYPS, educational psychologists or police. If the bullying cannot be managed or there has been an incident where an injury has been sustained, then NDADA can contact Devon and Cornwall Housing to evict the family.
Sexual acts witnessed or reported as occurring in or out of the refuge, to children under 16, and/or under 18 where the young person may have been pressured into taking part, or where one may be older than the other, should be reported immediately to MASH.
Incidents of inappropriate sexual behaviour or language towards other children will not be tolerated and will be addressed by the FIW. If behaviour or language is of a serious and harmful in nature the same procedure outlined in the above policy.
If any pregnancy or contraceptive advice is sought by anyone under 18 it should be checked out with that young person if there could be an abusive relationship taking place and appropriate signposting needs to be given.
All incidents, allegations or disclosures of abuse by children or of bullying are to be discussed with the line manager or if unavailable the manager.
Contemplating suicide and taking the lives of children
Any disclosure made by a service user of feeling like she wants to take her life along with her children’s, now or recently, even if this feeling has subsided, should be passed on to CYPS.
How NDADA staff work with children
The nature of our work in the refuge means that the worker has contact with children in the environment in which they live for eight hours a day and interaction with children is part of every working day.
NDADA knows the importance of promoting emotional warmth and fair and consistent boundaries particularly when children have experienced domestic violence. Therefore it is reasonable for workers in the refuge and outreach workers on occasions to provide comfort to children and young people, for example by holding a small child, by holding hands or touching the head, arms or shoulders. Do not approach a child in a way that could be misconstrued as sexual, avoid kissing and hugging. It is also reasonable for NDADA workers to hold or guide a child to immediately secure the health and safety of that child or of other children, by means of holding arms, hands or shoulders. If a child is behaving aggressively but not in immediate danger to others or themselves then it is the responsibility of the mother to restrain or discipline the child. Every effort should be made to empower the woman to control her own children. However, on occasions, it is reasonable for staff or volunteers to verbally reinforce the rules of the refuge.
It is not reasonable for workers to be involved in intimate care of children. In rare circumstances when a child would be likely to suffer, then changing nappies or enabling young children to use the toilet can take place by the play workers but only when there is another adult present.
Every effort should be made that one-to-one work with children is conducted in a room with an internal window.
Children often receive gifts on birthdays and at Christmas. Care should be taken to ensure that these gifts are age appropriate and do not include any sexual or violent references. It is to be made clear that the gift or gifts are from the organisation rather from any individual or individuals.
Retention, disposal and destruction of data and records in relation to safeguarding
The Designated Safeguarding Officer responsible to the CEO will be responsible for managing this. This policy and good practice will work in conjunction with all Safeguarding and IT use policy and procedures.
The guiding principles to record retention periods according to Data Protection Act requires that personal information should be:
- Adequate, relevant and not excessive for the purpose(s) for which they are held (third principle)
- Accurate and where necessary kept up to date (sixth principle)
- Not kept longer than is necessary for its purpose(s) (fifth principle).
In the case of a referral to Children’s Services (MASH), records should be kept for six years after the last contact with the service user.
In the case of concerns about people (paid and unpaid) who work with children and young people, for example, allegations, convictions, disciplinary action, inappropriate behaviour towards children and young people e.g. where an employee has breached the code of conduct, NDADA will make a record of the behaviour, the action taken and the outcome.
Retention should be six years after employment ceases. However the records should be retained for a longer period if any of the following apply:
- There were concerns about the behaviour of an adult who was working with children where s/he behaved in way that has harmed a child
- The adult possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child
- The adult behaved towards a child in a way that indicates s/he is unsuitable to work with children.
In such circumstances, records should be retained until the adult reaches normal retirement age, or for 10 years if that is longer.
Storage of records (good practice)
- Information about concerns and allegations and referrals should be kept in separate files.
- Files should be compiled and labelled carefully.
- Any files which contain sensitive or confidential data should be locked away and access to keys strictly controlled (it is advisable to keep a key log so that it is possible to see who has accessed the cabinet, when and the titles of the files they have used).
- Access needs to be limited to people in named roles.
- Records stored electronically will be password protected.
Destruction of records
Records should be incinerated or shredded in the presence of a member of the organisation or entrusted to a firm specialising in the destruction of confidential material. This action must be taken at the same time as the electronic record is purged. If not shredded immediately, all confidential records must be held in a secure plastic bag, labelled as confidential and locked in a cupboard or other secure place.
When a part of an organisation (e.g. a branch, team, project etc) is closed down, the organisation must make arrangements for ongoing management of records relating to that branch/team/project including the review, retention and disposal of records.