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2.2.28 Firesetting

Fireplay and firesetting behaviour by a child must always be taken seriously, because it can cause a child to suffer, or be likely to suffer, Significant Harm:

  • There is a very real risk of possible death and injury; and
  • When a child sets fires, it may indicate that they are at risk of, or experiencing, serious mental or emotional harm (see Recognition of Significant Harm Procedure).

Significant Harm is defined as a situation where a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, a degree of physical, sexual and / or emotional harm (through abuse or neglect) which is so harmful there needs to be compulsory intervention by child protection agencies in the life of the child and their family.

Consideration should be given to undertaking a common assessment and / or making a referral to LA children's social care and the police, in line with the Referrals Procedure, depending on the seriousness of the firesetting incident/s.

Several factors may lead to firesetting:

  • Curiosity;
  • A cry for help;
  • Lack of parental control;
  • Serious emotional disturbance, which may be related to abuse and neglect.

Whilst all groups of children may become involved in firesetting, boys, children in one-parent families, and Children in Care(Kent) / Looked after Children (Medway) are over-represented.

Issues for consideration in an assessment include the child's development needs, stressful environment factors, the degree of guidance and boundaries the child is receiving or is willing to accept, basic care and ensuring safety (e.g. where a young child can access matches and lighters).

All professionals should discuss their concerns with their line manager and their agency's nominated safeguarding children adviser.

The Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s ‘Firesetter Advisory Scheme’ is available by referral from the family or professionals to firesetters@kent.fire-uk.org. The scheme helps young people understand and control their feelings and the circumstances that led them to firesetting and teaches fire safety awareness.

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