Safeguarding and Child Protection

1. Duties of Local Authority Children's Services

All children deserve the opportunity to reach their potential and be protected from harm. Parenting can be challenging, especially when children have experienced previous neglect, abuse and uncertainty. Adoptive parents who ask for help should be seen as responsible, rather than as failing and a Child Protection enquiry may reveal unmet needs for support for the adoptive parent. It is, however, important that there is a clear focus on the welfare of the child and, in supporting adoptive placements, staff should be alert to potential indicators of abuse.

For adoptive families these include:

  • The child's behaviour is reported as particularly irritating and challenging;
  • Adopters feel frustrated by the lack of progress they are making;
  • The adopters receive frequent complaints about the child from school;
  • There is illness or death in the adoptive extended family;
  • There is a loss of job/income/status of an adoptive parent;
  • There is evidence of lack of attachment;
  • There is evidence of marital difficulties.

All staff should have read the Department of Education "Working Together to Safeguard Children" Guidelines (updated March 2018).

In supporting families post-placement it is important that:

  • The child is seen alone when the family is visited. This is a statutory requirement whilst the child is still technically looked after but due consideration needs to be given to child's age and anxieties in how this is undertaken. This is the responsibility of the Placing Authority;
  • Children's concerns are 'heard';
  • Children and adopters are treated with respect and dignity;
  • Confidentiality is respected, unless action needs to be taken to protect a child;
  • Social Workers are clear about their powers and duties to intervene and are open with adopters about any concerns they may have;
  • As in all social work practice, it is important to guard against myths and stereotypes when working with any family. Abuse occurs across the whole spectrum of family structures, cultures and experiences.
  1. The Local Authority has a duty to investigate all cases of suspected child abuse by parents, other carers, individuals with professional responsibilities towards children, siblings, other children. The Police and NSPCC also have a duty to investigate child abuse.
  2. In practice, the Local Authority and the Police are most likely to carry out a joint investigation.
  3. Referrals are usually made to the Local Authority MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub) team who decide on the level of investigation or intervention required and by whom.
  4. The Children Act 1989 Sec 47(1) gives the Local Authority a duty to investigate where they:
    1. Are informed that a child who lives or is found in their area is the subject of an emergency protection order; or is in police protection;
    2. Have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives or is found in their area is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, the Authority shall make, or cause to make, such enquiries as they consider necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child's welfare.

      This includes obtaining access to him/her. If access is denied, or information withheld, they must take reasonable steps to obtain access or information unless they are satisfied that they are already have sufficient information. They may call upon local authorities, health authorities, education authorities etc for assistance and it shall be the duty of such authorities to assist unless it would be unreasonable in the circumstances.
  5. At any stage of the process the Local Authority may decide that it is not in the best interest of the child to proceed further. This may be because the allegation has been withdrawn or is seen to be false or not reaching threshold for intervention.

2. Role of Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO)

Each Local Authority is required to appoint a Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) who should be alerted to all cases in which it is alleged that a person working with children including a professional, volunteer, foster carers or prospective adoptive parent, has:

  • Behaved in a way that has harmed, or may have harmed, a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against, or related to, a child;
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates an unsuitability to work with children.

Additionally the LADO must be informed:

  • If there are concerns about a person's behaviour towards their own or other child/ren and there has been a recommendation from a strategy discussion that consideration should be given to the risk posed to children they work with;
  • When an allegation is made about abuse that took place some time ago and the accused person may still be working with or have contact with children.

Referral to the LADO should not be delayed in order to gather information, nor should any action be taken that might affect any future investigation or disciplinary procedure, such as interviewing the alleged victim, or potential witnesses, or informing or interviewing the alleged perpetrator, prior to contacting the LADO.

It is the clear expectation of Families for Children that any concerns which meet the criteria set out above are referred to the LADO for consideration and advice within one working day. The referral should ordinarily be made by the relevant Practice Manager, or in his/her absence, the Head of Operations/Chief Executive. Contact details for the LADO can be obtained from the website of the Local Authority's Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) for the area in which the adult resides.

NOTE – any concerns about a family member (as opposed to a professional, volunteer, foster carer or adoption parent) must be referred to the Child Protection Service of the Local Authority, rather than the LADO.

3. Responsibilities of the Agency

The Agency has a duty to report to the Local Authority any concerns of a child being at risk of significant harm.

If a staff member/volunteer has a concern about a child's welfare or protection, even if they are not sure if it is serious, it should be discussed with their line manager without delay. If it is not possible to speak with the appropriate line manager, then the Designated Safeguarding Officer, or another manager would need to be contacted to ensure that appropriate action is taken.

This consultation needs to be undertaken verbally and not just by email, with the onus being on the staff member to ensure that a member of the management team is fully aware of the concern or allegation.

A decision will be made (usually by the DSO but in their absence another of the managers) about whether the concern needs to be discussed with the family or whether the matter is serious enough to warrant contacting another agency without their consent.

In the unlikely circumstance that all managers are unavailable to discuss the event, then the staff should contact the Children's Child Care Team and/or MASH in the Local Authority area in which the child lives and share the concerns, without breaking confidentiality and ask for guidance.

If there is a serious risk of harm to the child if no protective action is taken, then the MASH/MARU/referral service, or Emergency Out of Hours Duty Team or the Police would need to be contacted and the safeguarding/child protection concerns reported.

Whilst Families for Children would expect to play a significant role in reaching agreement concerning actions to follow, the decision must be that of the Local Authority Child which has the responsibility for the child. Families for Children letter to adoptive parents regarding Child Protection Procedures details this.

Families for Children is a relatively small agency, which cannot provide twenty-four hour consultation for carers or staff to managers. Carers and staff must therefore be aware that in any situation where contact cannot be made with a line manager in Families for Children within that working day, or an eight hour period, direct contact must be made to the child's agency and/or the Local Authority Children's Service where the child resides.

Families for Children staff will make themselves available for conferences, strategy meetings or court proceedings as necessary and will produce reports when required.

Full records must be kept by Families for Children of any action and decisions taken. It will be important for adopted adults who access their records, that a full explanation of actions taken or not taken can be readily understood from file records.

Contemporaneous notes are important and should be recorded as soon as possible after any recorded discussion or interaction. If allegations are made by children it is vital that, if possible, notes should be verbatim or as accurate as they can be. If notes are not contemporaneous then it would need to be noted how long after an event they were made.

Children who have been abused emotionally, physically, sexually or suffered neglect and are in placement with a new family may present behaviour which is challenging and difficult to manage. These children often place themselves in situations within which they risk being further abused by their current carers, people in their social network or other adults with whom they come in to contact. Carers therefore need clear guidance and support if they are not to risk acting themselves in a manner which is abusive.

Children with complex needs may be particularly vulnerable to abuse for a number of reasons, in particular because they may need a high level of personal care or because they may have difficulties in comprehension and communication. Allegations of abuse by a carer made by the child placed or another person observing the carers behaviour towards the child, require immediate action under the Child Protection Procedures.

Sometimes a child may knowingly or unknowingly make a wrong allegation of abuse against a carer or may say something which is wrongfully interpreted by suggesting that he or she is being abused. All allegations need to be investigated in accordance with Local Authority Child Protection Procedures.

Families for Children places some children in adoptive families who because of their own experience may abuse other children. Any information which suggests the occurrence of such abuse must be investigated in accordance with Local Authority Child Protection Procedures.

4. Notifiable Events

In accordance with Schedule 4 (Regulation 19.1 of Voluntary Adoption Agencies and the Adoption Agencies (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2003) if in relation to the Agency any of the events listed in column 1 of the table in Schedule 4 takes place, the Registered Provider or the Registered Manager shall without delay notify the person indicated in respect of the event in column 2 of that table.

Any notification made in accordance with the above regulation which is given orally shall be confirmed in writing within 14 days.

5. Allegations made in Adoptive Placement

Allegations against adopters or other members of a child's adoptive family

It can be extremely difficult for a worker supporting a family to hear allegations of abuse made by a child against members of the family for whom they have held primary responsibility to assess and prepare for adoption. It is important to remain child-focused, whilst ensuring proper support for the family. Social workers should receive management support, to help them to distinguish between personal feelings and values and professional responsibilities.

Children who have disclosed abuse are often anxious about consequences of what they have done. The emotions of the adults caring for them can run high and the children absorb the stress and uncertainty for those around them.

Other children in the family, either by birth or adoption, can also feel the tensions and they may need to be interviewed and/or examined as part of the Child Protection Procedures. Their needs for support should be assessed.

It will be the responsibility of the Local Authority in which the child resides, in consultation with the Local Authority who placed the child, if an Adoption Order has not yet been granted, to decide whether the child can remain in the household. If an Adoption Application has been lodged, the decision will come under the jurisdiction of the court. If a decision is made to move the child, the Families for Children worker may need to be available to help the child to understand the reasons for the move and to help to prepare the child for this. Age-appropriate language and tools should be employed.

At all stages, plain, jargon-free language should be used to describe reasons, actions and decisions to adoptive parents and children. Adoptive parents need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities, including rights to other support services.

Many of the children placed in adoptive families have been abused prior to placement, and that abuse may have been disclosed and some appropriate work undertaken prior to placement. For other children they will not feel safe enough to disclose abuse until relatively securely established in a new family. Disclosures may be a re-enactment of abuse by a former carer or projected into the new parental figure. Allegations may be against current or former carers.

If the allegation is that an adoptive parent has harmed or presents a risk to a Looked after child, the relevant Team Manager needs to be advised immediately and they will then advise DSO (CEO if DSO not available) as soon as possible.

If there is a Looked After Child in Placement (i.e. an adoption placement pre Adoption Order) the DSO/PM will contact the LADO in the Local Authority where the child is living and agree further action, including contacting the Placing Authority Child Care Team immediately and sharing the allegation with them. Local Authority where the child is currently living may suggest that an investigation should be carried out by the child's original care authority.

Details of the allegations against the adopter or any member of their family should not be shared with them until a strategy has been agreed with the DSO/PM and LADO.

A strategy meeting will be held to discuss the best way to manage the situation and protect the child from harm. The investigation is the responsibility of the Local Authority and will be led by them.

If the allegation is potentially serious then the DSO will advise OFSTED as required.

Families for Children would arrange for Independent Support for the family throughout the process of the investigation.

In the case of allegations about an adoptive parent where the child is already adopted, the child protection procedures will be followed in the same way as for any other parent.

Where allegations are made against a former carer the relevant local authority will be contacted and their local procedures followed.

Where the child is the abuser

A child or young person who abuses others is likely to have considerable needs themselves. He/she also poses a risk of harm to other children. Evidence suggests that children who abuse others may have been exposed to violence, been subject to physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse themselves and may struggle in school. All these are factors which are present in the background of many children placed with adopters approved by Families for Children .

A child who abuses others needs a response which meets his/her needs, but which protects others and which helps the child to acknowledge their own responsibility.

A co-ordinated approach is needed which recognises the child's needs and which involves the relevant Children's Services, Health (CAMHS) and Educational Services. The adoptive family will need advice and support in their parenting role and help to access the services that the child needs. They will also need advice and support to manage the situation and keep other children in their family and community safe.

6. Post Adoption Counselling

During post adoption counselling, an adopted person may disclose abuse by a family member, or former carer (foster carer, residential social worker).

It should be ascertained whether the alleged perpetrator is in contact with children in the family or through work or social groups. The Agency may be the first to be aware of safeguarding concerns and the situation must be discussed with the Team Manager (or Head of Operations/Chief Executive in his/her absence) as a matter of urgency. A decision should be made about referral to the relevant statutory agency.

The adopted person should be informed that a Child Protection referral has been made and the reasons for this should be clarified and discussed. Appropriate help and support should be offered to the adopted person.

7. Where Referral to the Local MASH Results in a Decision to Pursue an Investigation

The following issues need to be addressed by MASH so you may need to specifically request decisions on the following:

  1. What, if any, immediate arrangements need to be made for the care of the child
  2. What arrangements will be made for interviewing the child or children; who will advise the children about this?
  3. Who will support the carers if a child has disclosed past abuse? The carers may be dealing with a distressed child and as adults they themselves may be distressed;
  4. If a child has made an allegation against a carer or member of the carer's family or network, that carer should be offered independent support;
  5. Who will keep the carers informed of the actions that are to be taken, and if appropriate, the outcomes of those actions?

8. Duty to Follow-Up a Safeguarding Referral

The Agency Referrer is responsible for following up the referral, to ascertain what actions, if any, are being undertaken by the MASH.

The first check is made no later than 1 week after the date of the referral. This follow up may be made by telephone contact or by email, and it is noted on the child and adopter's file, including what actions the local authority are planning or have undertaken, or are not taking.

In the event of the local authority failing to respond, the Agency Referrer will inform their line manager and the local dispute resolution/escalation procedure will be followed – see appropriate Child Protection Procedures.

The dispute resolution/escalation procedure should also be followed if Families for Children does not agree with the decision taken by the local authority with regards to a reported safeguarding concern.

All relevant details will be recorded in the child's and adopters files.

9. Review of Carers following Child Protection Investigations

Following a Child Protection Investigation in an adoptive family, a report of the investigation should be presented to the Adoption Panel of FAMILIES FOR CHILDREN and the carers re-approval must be subject to review.

A review is important, regardless of the outcome of the investigation, to ensure appropriate action, support and training.

10. Allegations made against anyone Working for or on Behalf of Families for Children

Families for Children recognises its duty to report concerns or allegations raised against people working for the organisation or by a professional from another organisation.

Any concerns should be raised immediately and in the first instance to the individual's line manager. He/she will discuss with DSO or CEO in absence of the DSO.

The DSO will take responsibility for consulting with/liaising with the LADO in the Local Authority area in which the alleged incident is said to have taken place.

Any further action will be taken under guidance from the LADO to ensure children are safeguarded from harm and appropriate referrals are made to the police/or registration body (for example Social Work England, OFSTED) or the Disclosures and Barring Service.

Where appropriate staff will be offered the opportunity to have some independent support and advice.

11. Relevant Safeguarding Contact Details

(N.B. contacts change so please check South West Child Protection Procedures for contact details.)

MASH – 0345 155 1071
LADO – 01392 384964
OUT OF HOURS – 0845 6000 388

MASH – 01803 208 100
LADO – 01803 208 541
OUT OF HOURS – 0300 456 4876

MASH – 01752 668 000
LADO – 01752 306 340
OUT OF HOURS – 01752 668 000

MASH – 01305 228 866
LADO – 01305 221 122
OUT OF HOURS – 01202 228 866

MASH – 01202 735046
LADO – 01202 456 744
OUT OF HOURS – 01202 738 256

MASH – 01202 735 046
LADO – 01202 456 744
OUT OF HOURS – 01202 738256

CHILDREN'S SOCIAL CARE – 0300 123 2224
LADO – 0300 123 2224
OUT OF HOURS – 0300 123 2327

MARU – 0300 123 1116
LADO – 01872 326536
OUT OF HOURS – 01208 251300

LADO – 01872 326 536
OUT OF HOURS – 01720 422 699

MASH – FIRST RESPONSE 0117 9036444
LADO – 0117 9037795
OUT OF HOURS – 01454 615165

MASH - 0300 4560108
LADO – 0300 4560100
OUT OF HOURS – 0300 456 0100

MASH – 01225 396 312
LADO – 01225 396 810
OUT OF HOURS – 01454 615 165

MASH – 01275 888 808
LADO/ DOFA – 01275 888 211
OUT OF HOURS – 01454 615 165