Responding to Concerns of Abuse and Neglect


1.0 Introduction

The BFG Child Protection Procedures are underpinned by the Working Together to Safeguard Children Guidance (2018), which sets out what should happen in any local area when a Child or Young Person is believed to be in need of support. Effective safeguarding arrangements should aim to meet the following two key principles:

  • Safeguarding is everyone's responsibility: for services to be effective each individual and organisation should play their full part; and
  • A child centred approach: for services to be effective they should be based on a clear understanding of the needs and views of children.


The BFG Child Protection Procedures set out how agencies and individuals should work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people. The target audience is professionals (including unqualified staff and volunteers) and front-line managers who have particular responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, and operational and senior managers, in

  • Agencies responsible for commissioning or providing services to children and their families and to adults who are parents;
  • Agencies with a particular responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.


Individual children, especially some of the most vulnerable children and those at greatest risk of social exclusion, will need early co-ordinated help from health agencies, schools and education services, children's social care (social work service), voluntary, community and independent sectors, including youth justice services.


All agencies and professionals should:

  • Be alert to potential indicators of abuse or neglect;
  • Be alert to the risks which individual abusers, or potential abusers, may pose to children;
  • Share and help to analyse information so that an assessment can be made of the child's needs and circumstances;
  • Contribute to whatever actions are needed to safeguard and promote the child's welfare;
  • Take part in regularly reviewing the outcomes for the child against specific plans;
  • Work co-operatively with parents, unless this is inconsistent with ensuring the child's safety.


1.1 Concept of Significant Harm

1.1.1 Some children are in need because they are suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm. The Children Act 1989 introduced the concept of significant harm as the threshold that justifies compulsory intervention in family life in the best interests of children, and gives local authorities a duty to make enquiries (Section 47) to decide whether they should take action to safeguard or promote the welfare of a child who is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm. In BFG the Authority is vested in the Commander BFG who delegates this responsibility to the BFSWS.


A Court in England and Wales may only make a Care Order or Supervision Order in respect of a child if it is satisfied that:

  • The child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and
  • The harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to a lack of adequate parental care or control (Section 31 CA 1989).


In addition, Harm is defined as the ill treatment or impairment of health and development. This definition was clarified in section 120 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (implemented on 31 January 2005) so that it may include “impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another" for example, where there are concerns of Domestic Abuse.


1.1.2 There are no absolute criteria on which to rely when judging what constitutes significant harm. Consideration of the severity of ill treatment may include the degree and the extent of physical harm, the duration and frequency of abuse and neglect, the extent of premeditation, and the presence or degree of threat, coercion, sadism and bizarre or unusual elements.


1.1.3 Each of these elements has been associated with more severe effects on the child, and / or relatively greater difficulty in helping the child overcome the adverse impact of the maltreatment.

1.1.4 Sometimes, a single traumatic event may constitute significant harm (e.g. a violent assault, suffocation or poisoning). More often, significant harm is a compilation of significant events, both acute and longstanding, which interrupt, change or damage the child's physical and psychological development.

1.1.5 Some children live in family and social circumstances where their health and development are neglected. For them, it is the corrosiveness of long-term neglect, emotional, physical or sexual abuse that causes impairment to the extent of constituting significant harm.

1.2 Early Help

1.2.1 The local agencies and services in BFG/EJSU should have in place effective ways to identify emerging problems and potential unmet needs for individual children and families as well as clear guidance and procedures for all professionals. This includes professionals and volunteers in universal services and those providing services to adults with children. The professionals should be supported through training and supervision to understand their role in identifying emerging problems and sharing information with other professionals to assist with early identification and assessment such as through the MoD Needs and Response Framework.


1.2.2 Professionals should be alert to the potential need for early help for a child who:

  • is disabled and has specific additional needs
  • has special educational needs
  • is a young carer
  • is showing signs of engaging in anti-social; or criminal behaviour
  • is in a family circumstance presenting challenges for the child such as substance misuse, adult mental health problems or domestic violence and abuse
  • is showing early signs of abuse or neglect


However, if professionals are concerned that a child has reached the threshold of significant harm, an immediate referral to BFSWS CRT must be made.


1.2.3 Professionals working in universal services have a responsibility to identify the symptoms and triggers of abuse and neglect, to share that information and work together to provide children with the support they need.


1.2.4 This website ( contains the MoD Needs and Response Framework document that includes:


1.3 Definitions of child abuse and neglect

Physical Abuse

1.3.1 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 caused when a parent fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces illness in a child; see Part B, Fabricated or induced illness.

Emotional Abuse

1.3.2 Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent effects on the child's emotional development, and may involve:

  • Conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person;
  • Imposing age or developmentally inappropriate expectations 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;
  • Seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another e.g. where there is domestic violence and abuse;
  • Serious bullying, causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger;
  • Exploiting and corrupting children.


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

Sexual Abuse

1.3.3 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 of 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 and touching outside of clothing.


1.3.4 Sexual abuse includes non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, including online and with mobile phones, or in the production of pornographic materials, watching sexual activities or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet). Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.


1.3.5 In addition; Sexual abuse includes abuse of children through sexual exploitation. Penetrative sex where one of the partners is under the age of 16 is illegal, although prosecution of similar age, consenting partners is not usual. However, where a child is under the age of 13 it is classified as rape under s5 Sexual Offences Act 2003. See Part B, Practice Guidance.


1.3.6 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.


1.3.7 Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance misuse, maternal mental ill health or learning difficulties or a cluster of such issues. Where there is domestic abuse and violence towards a carer, the needs of the child may be neglected.


1.3.8 Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent failing to:

  • Provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment);
  • Protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger;
  • Ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care-givers);
  • Ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.


1.3.9 It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child's basic emotional, social and educational needs.

Domestic Abuse

1.3.10 Included in the four categories of child abuse and neglect above, are a number of factors relating to the behaviour of the parents and carers, which have significant impact on children such as domestic violence. Research analysing Serious Case Reviews has demonstrated a significant prevalence of domestic abuse in the history of families with children who are subject of Child Protection Plans. Children can be affected by seeing, hearing and living with domestic violence and abuse as well as being caught up in any incidents directly, whether to protect someone or as a target. It should also be noted that the age group of 16 and 17 year olds have been found in recent studies to be increasingly affected by domestic violence in their peer relationships.


1.3.11 The Home Office definition of Domestic violence and abuse was updated in March 2013 as:

"Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence and abuse between those aged 16 or over, who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender and sexuality."

This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Financial
  • Emotional


1.3.12 Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.


Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim."

1.4 Potential risk of harm to an unborn child

1.4.1 In some circumstances, agencies or individuals are able to anticipate the likelihood of significant harm with regard to an expected baby (e.g. domestic violence, parental substance misuse or mental ill health).


1.4.2 These concerns should be addressed as early as possible before the birth, so that a full assessment can be undertaken and support offered to enable the parent/s (wherever possible) to provide safe care.

See Safeguarding the Unborn Guidance, 2014 and Part A, chapter 2.6, Pre-birth referral and assessment and Part A, chapter 4.1.1, Pre-birth conference.


1.5 Professional/ agency response

1.5.1 Professionals in all agencies, whatever the nature of the agency (whether public services or commissioned provider services) who come into contact with children, who work with adult parents/carers or who gain knowledge about children through working with adults, should:

  • Be alert to potential indicators of abuse or neglect;
  • Be alert to the risks which individual abusers or potential abusers, may pose to children;
  • Be alert to the impact on the child of any concerns of abuse or maltreatment;
  • Be able to gather and analyse information as part of an assessment of the child’s needs.


1.5.2 The law empowers anyone who has actual care of a child to do all that is reasonable in the circumstances to safeguard their welfare. Accordingly, professionals in all agencies should take appropriate action wherever necessary to ensure that no child is left in immediate danger, e.g. a teacher, foster carer, child-minder, a volunteer or any professional should take all reasonable steps to offer a child immediate protection (including from an aggressive parent). Children Act 1989 S.3 (5)(a) and (b).

Child protection support for professionals

1.5.3 Each agency should have single / internal agency child protection procedures which are compliant with these BFG Child Protection Procedures. The BFG Safeguarding Children Board will hold agencies to account for having these procedures in place as part of their arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Single / internal agency procedures must provide instruction to professionals in:

  • Identifying potential or actual harm to children;
  • Discussing and recording concerns with a first line manager/ Named GP or Nurse / Designated Person or in supervision;
  • Analysing concerns by completing an assessment;

Discussing concerns with the agency nominated Safeguarding Children Adviser (able to offer advice and decide upon the necessity for a referral to BFSWS).


1.5.4 Professionals in all agencies should be sufficiently knowledgeable and competent to contact CRT or the service police in the Joint Response Team about their concerns directly and to complete the appropriate referral form.


1.5.5 A formal referral to BFSWS, the JRT or accident and emergency services (for any urgent medical treatment) must not be delayed by the need for consultation with management or the nominated safeguarding children adviser, or the completion of an assessment.

Duty to co-operate and refer

1.5.6 Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 places a duty on key persons and bodies to make arrangements in any local area to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and improve the outcomes for children.


All professionals in agencies with contact with children and members of their families must make a referral to CRT if there are signs that a child or an unborn baby:

  • Is suffering significant harm through abuse or neglect;
  • Is likely to suffer significant harm in the future.


1.5.7 The timing of such referrals should reflect the level of perceived risk of harm, no longer than within one working day of identification or disclosure of harm or risk of harm.


1.5.8 In urgent situations, out of office hours, the referral should be made to the CRT / JRT emergency out of hour’s team on 0800 7243176

Listening to the Child

1.5.9 Whenever a child reports that they are suffering or have suffered significant harm through abuse or neglect, or have caused or are causing physical or sexual harm to others, the initial response from all professionals should be limited to listening carefully to what the child says to:

  • Clarify the concerns;
  • Offer re-assurance about how the child will be kept safe;
  • Explain what action will be taken and within what time frame.


1.5.10 The child must not be pressed for information, led or cross-examined or given false assurances of absolute confidentiality, as this could prejudice police investigations, especially in cases of sexual abuse.


1.5.11 If the child can understand the significance and consequences of making a referral to CRT / JRT, they should be asked their view.


1.5.12 However, it should be explained to the child that whilst their view will be taken into account, the professional has a responsibility to take whatever action is required to ensure the child's safety and the safety of other children.

Parental consultation

1.5.13 Where practicable, concerns should be discussed with the parent and agreement sought for a referral to CRT / JRT unless seeking agreement is likely to place the child at risk of significant harm through delay or the parent's actions or reactions; for example, in circumstances where there are concerns or suspicions that a serious crime such as sexual abuse or induced illness has taken place.


1.5.14 Where a professional decides not to seek parental permission before making a referral to CRT / JRT, the decision must be recorded in the child's file with reasons, dated and signed and confirmed in the referral to CRT / JRT.


1.5.15 A child protection referral from a professional cannot be treated as anonymous, so the parent will ultimately become aware of the identity of the referrer. Where the parent refuses to give permission for the referral, unless it would cause undue delay, further advice should be sought from a manager or the nominated child protection adviser and the outcome fully recorded.


1.5.16 If, having taken full account of the parents' wishes it is still considered that there is a need for referral:

  • The reason for proceeding without parental agreement must be recorded;
  • The parent's withholding of permission must form part of the verbal and written referral to CRT;
  • The parent should be contacted to inform them that, after considering their wishes, a referral has been made.

Urgent Medical Attention

1.5.17 If the child is suffering from a serious injury, the professional must seek medical attention immediately from the nearest hospital (preferably a German Designated Provider hospital) and must inform BFSWS and the duty consultant paediatrician at the hospital.


1.5.18 Where abuse is alleged, suspected or confirmed in a child admitted to hospital, the child must not be discharged until:

  • BFSWS are notified by telephone that there are child protection concerns;
  • A strategy meeting / discussion has been held, if appropriate, which should then include relevant hospital and other agency professionals.

Initiating the referral

1.5.19 Referrals should be made to BFSWS via the Central Referral Team (CRT) on 0800 7243176

Where specific arrangements are made, or exist, for another borough to undertake an enquiry, BFSWS will advise accordingly and ensure that the referral process outlined in Part A, Referral and Assessment.


1.5.21 The referrer should confirm verbal and telephone referrals in writing, within 48 hours.


1.5.22 Where an early help assessment has been completed prior to referral, these details should also be conveyed at the point of referral.


1.5.23 BFSWS should within one working day of receiving the referral make a decision about the type of response that will be required to meet the needs of the child. If this does not occur within three working days, the referrer should contact these services again and, if necessary, ask to speak to a line manager to establish progress.


1.5.24 The referrer should keep a formal record, whether hard copy or electronic, of:

  • Discussions with the child;
  • Discussions with the parent;
  • Discussions with their managers;
  • Information provided to BFSWS
  • Decisions and actions taken (with time and date clearly noted, and signed).


1.5.25 The referrer should keep a copy of the written referral, confirming the verbal and telephone referral.


1.6 Response and concerns raised by members of the public

1.6.1 When a member of the public telephones or approaches any agency with concerns, about the welfare of a child or an unborn baby, the professional who receives the contact should always:

Gather as much information as possible, to be able to make a judgement about the seriousness of the concerns;

  • Take basic details:
    • Name, address, gender and date of birth of child;
    • Name and contact details for parent/s, educational setting (e.g. nursery, school), Medical Centre, professionals providing other services, a lead professional for the child, if known.
  • Discuss the case with their manager and the agency's nominated safeguarding children adviser to decide whether to:
    • Make a referral to BFSWS;
    • Make a referral to the lead professional, if the case is open and there is one;
    • Make a referral to a specialist agency or professional e.g. educational psychology or a speech and language therapist;
    • Undertake an early help assessment;
  • Record the referral contemporaneously, with the detail of information received and given, separating out fact from opinion as far as possible.


1.6.2 The member of the public should also be given the number for BFSWS and encouraged to contact them directly. The agency receiving the initial concern should always make a referral to BFSWS and to the lead professional if there is one, in case the member of the public does not follow through (a common occurrence).


1.6.3 If there is a risk that the member of the public will disengage without giving sufficient information to enable agencies to investigate concerns about a child, the NSPCC national 24 hour Child Protection Helpline (0808 800 5000) and Childline(0800 1111) can be offered as an alternative means of reporting concerns. See Part A , Roles and responsibilities, NSPCC.


1.6.4 Individuals may prefer not to give their name to BFSWS or NSPCC. Alternatively they may disclose their identity, but not wish for it to be revealed to the parent/s of the child concerned.


1.6.5 Wherever possible, professionals should respect the referrer's request for anonymity. However, professionals should not give referrers any guarantees of confidentiality, as there are certain limited circumstances in which the identity of a referrer may have to be given (e.g. the court arena).


1.6.6 Local publicity material should make the above position clear to potential referrers.


1.6.7 BFSWS should offer the referrer the opportunity of an interview.


1.7 Schools and educational establishments

1.7.1 One of the main sources of referrals about children are MOD schools. Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 sets out the requirements for the safeguarding arrangements in schools and educational establishments in detail. The different school settings for all age groups should have systems in place to promote the welfare of children and a culture of listening to children taking in to account their views and wishes.


1.7.2 Each MOD school should have a Designated Person for safeguarding. This role should be clearly set out and supported with a regular training and development program in order to fulfil the child welfare and safeguarding responsibilities. Arrangements within each school should set out the processes for sharing information with other professionals and the BFG SB.


1.7.3 All BFG educational establishments including nurseries must have safe recruitment policies and procedures in place.


1.7.4 Clear policies and procedures in accordance with the BFG SB procedures for managing allegations against people who work with children must be in operation.


1.8 Adult Services

1.8.1 All agencies, where professionals offer services to adults who may be parents or have close contact with children and / or to families, should have procedures and protocols in place for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. These should include arrangements for timely multi-disciplinary assessments with children's specialists in their own services and with other agencies, including BFSWS and the service police. See Part A Roles and responsibilities


1.8.2 Adult services and professionals working with adults need to be competent in identifying the client or patient's role as a parent. They need to be able to consider the impact of the adult's condition or behaviour on:

  • A child's development;
  • Family functioning;
  • The adult's parenting capacity.


1.8.3 Professionals working with adults can access further advice in the document  “Safeguarding Adults in Need of Support and Protection” on the SB website (


1.8.4 Where a professional working with adults has concerns about the parent's capacity to care for the child and considers that the child is likely to be harmed or is being harmed, they should immediately refer the child to the service police or CRT, in accordance with their agency's child protection procedures.

Other agencies should be assisted to understand how the information they share with a health professional will be managed and who will have access to it. Requests for information about a child from health professionals by BFSWS should be directed to the correct professional and not dealt with by administrative staff or intermediaries.