Responding to Abuse and Neglect
These Isle of Man Safeguarding 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 practitioners (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.
Many children, especially some of the most vulnerable children and those at greatest risk of social exclusion, will need co-ordinated early help services from health agencies such as GPs and health visiting, educational establishments such as schools and colleges, Children's Centres, local authority children's social care, youth justice services and the voluntary, charity, social enterprise, faith-based organisations and private sectors. Some services will be provided as universal services whilst others may be more targeted to meet specific needs, whatever the circumstances of the child:
All agencies and practitioners 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.
These procedures are based on the Safeguarding Together; Guidance for collective working to safeguard children and vulnerable adults in the Isle of Man 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 key principles:
- Safeguarding is everybody's business. This has been a long- standing expectation of the former Safeguarding Board and Safeguarding Adults Partnership. The Safeguarding Act 2018 enshrines this concept in statute and all relevant safeguard bodies now have a duty to:
- Safeguard and promote the welfare of children; and
- Safeguard and protect vulnerable adults.
- For services to be effective, each individual and organisation should play their full part; and
- Fully embrace a child-centred approach;
- There should be a clear understanding of the needs and views of children.
Safeguarding Together defines Safeguarding as:
- Protecting children from maltreatment;
- Preventing impairment of children's mental and physical health or development;
- Ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care; and
- Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.
2. The Concept of Significant Harm
Some children are in need because they are suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm. The Children and Young Person's Act 2001 introduced the concept of significant harm as the threshold that justifies compulsory intervention in family life in the best interests of children, and places a duty on the Division of Children and Families to make enquiries (Section 46) 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.
Additionally, a Court 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);
- In addition, 'harm' is defined as the ill treatment or impairment of health and development. This may include 'impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another' for example, where there are concerns of domestic abuse.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sometimes 'significant harm' refers to harm caused by one child to another (which may be a single event or a range of ill treatment), which is generally referred to as 'peer on peer abuse'.
3. Early Help
Early help means providing support as soon as a problem emerges at any point in a child's life, it can prevent further problems arising.
Any child may benefit from early help, but practitioners should, in particular, be alert to the potential need for early help for a child who:
- Is showing early signs of potential abuse;
- Is showing early signs of neglect;
- Is disabled and has specific additional needs;
- Has special educational needs (whether or not they have a statutory Education, Health and Care Plan);
- Is a young carer;
- Is showing signs of being drawn in to anti-social or criminal behaviour, including gang involvement and association with organised crime groups;
- Is frequently missing/goes missing from care or from home;
- Is at risk of modern slavery, trafficking or exploitation;
- Is at risk of being radicalised or exploited;
- Is in a family circumstance presenting challenges for the child, such as drug and alcohol misuse, adult mental health issues and domestic abuse;
- Is misusing drugs or alcohol themselves;
- Is a privately fostered child;
- Has a parent / carer in custody.
Effective early help relies upon local agencies working together with the consent of families and children to:
- Identify children and families who would benefit from early help;
- Undertake an assessment of the need for early help; and
- Provide targeted early help services to address the assessed needs of a child and their family which focuses on activity to significantly improve the outcomes for the child.
The Safeguarding Board has adopted the island's 'continuum of need' agreed by Department's and partners which sets out the levels for the different types of assessment and services to be commissioned and delivered.
The provision of early help services forms part of a continuum of need for individuals, children and families. Where identified needs are relatively low- level, individual services and universal services may be able to take swift action to prevent any further need for services.
For additional needs a range of early help services may be required, coordinated through an early help assessment by a Children with Additional Needs (CWAN) coordinator. Should more complex needs arise then support may be provided under Section 23 of the Children and Young Persons Act 2001. This support will be assessed by a social worker who will complete a NARRATES assessment which is the framework that is used for children and families who have more complex needs (CWCN) this assessment will determine the level of support required for the children and their family.
The Isle of Man provides assessment for early help services through the CWAN co-ordinators and the NARRATES assessment framework which is used to determine the level of need.
Local agencies should have in place effective ways to identify emerging problems and unmet needs that potentially may arise for individual children and families.
(For additional information please refer to The Isle of Man Integrated Continuum of Need Document – Guidance on Thresholds and Intervention to help remove barriers to Service Delivery)
Practitioners from local agencies should have access to training to be able to identify and respond early to abuse and neglect, and be made aware of the latest research showing the most effective interventions. The Safeguarding Board will monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of multi-agency training on how to respond early to the needs of vulnerable children whilst taking into account new and emerging threats, including online abuse, grooming, sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation and radicalisation.
4. Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect
The following definitions are based on those identified in Working Together to Safeguard Children and Keeping Children Safe in Education:
A form of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting by those known to them or, more rarely, by others. Abuse can take place wholly online, or technology may be used to facilitate offline abuse. Children may be abused by an adult or adults or another child or children.
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;
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;
- Not giving the child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or 'making fun' of what they say or how they communicate;
- 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 abuse;
- Serious bullying (including cyberbullying);
- 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 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 (for example rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing.
Sexual abuse may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at or in the production of sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways or grooming a child in preparation for abuse. Sexual abuse can take place online, and technology can be used to facilitate offline abuse. Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.
In addition; Sexual abuse includes abuse of children through sexual exploitation which occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.
- A child under the age of 13 is not legally capable of consenting to sex (it is statutory rape) or any other type of sexual touching;
- Sexual activity with a child under 16 is also an offence;
- It is an offence for a person to have a sexual relationship with a 16 or 17 year old if they hold a position of trust or authority in relation to them;
- Where sexual activity with a 16 or 17 year old does not result in an offence being committed, it may still result in harm, or the likelihood of harm being suffered;
- Non-consensual sex is rape whatever the age of the victim; and
- If the victim is incapacitated through drink or drugs, or the victim or their family has been subject to violence or the threat of it, they cannot be considered to have given true consent; therefore offences may have been committed;
- Child sexual exploitation is therefore potentially a child protection issue for all children under the age of 18 years and not just those in a specific age group.
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.
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 towards a carer, the needs of the child may be neglected.
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.
It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child's basic emotional, social and educational needs.
These definitions are used when determining significant harm and children can be affected by combinations of maltreatment and abuse, which can be impacted on by for example domestic abuse in the household or a cluster of problems faced by the adults.
In addition, 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 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 abuse in their peer relationships.
It should therefore be considered in responding to concerns that the Home Office Definition of domestic violence and abuse is as follows:
"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:
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".
Contextual Safeguarding is an approach to understanding, and responding to, young people's experiences of significant harm beyond their families. It recognises that the different relationships that young people form in their neighbourhoods, schools and online can feature violence and abuse. Parents and carers have little influence over these contexts, and young people's experiences of extra-familial abuse can undermine parent-child relationships.
Therefore, children's social care practitioners, child protection systems and wider safeguarding partnerships need to engage with individuals and sectors who do have influence over/within extra-familial contexts, and recognise that assessment of, and intervention with, these spaces are a critical part of safeguarding practices. Contextual Safeguarding, therefore, expands the objectives of child protection systems in recognition that young people are vulnerable to abuse beyond their front doors.
Whilst we recognise and respond to the risk on the Isle of Man, there is currently no legislation in respect of Human Trafficking/Modern Slavery and Criminal Exploitation that offers the protection this cohort of young people require.
5. Potential Risk of Harm to an Unborn Child
In some circumstances, agencies or individuals are able to anticipate the likelihood of significant harm with regard to an expected baby (e.g. where there is information known about domestic abuse, parental substance misuse or mental ill health).
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 to the baby.
6. Recognising and Responding to Concerns
All practitioners, whether paid or voluntary, in all agencies and organisations, where they come in to contact with children and young people, or similarly, all those who work in some way with adults, who may be parents or carers, 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.
All agencies will have robust safeguarding policies and procedures in place to support and provide information about how and what action to take when there are concerns about a child. Those safeguarding policies and procedures will include information about how to:
- Identify potential or actual harm to children; whether this is when problems are first emerging, or where a child is already known to Children and Families Division;
- Discuss and record concerns with the manager;
- Analyse concerns by completing an assessment of circumstances;
- Discuss concerns with the agency's designated safeguarding children advisor (able to offer advice and decide upon the necessity for a referral to Children and Families Division, Initial Response Team, Duty Social Worker.
All practitioners working in agencies who have contact with children and members of their families must make a referral to the Children and Families Service in accordance with the duty to safeguard established in the safeguarding Act 2018, and follow the procedures 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.
Practitioners in all agencies should use their knowledge and agency resources to complete a MARF, or if there are immediate concerns to contact the duty social worker by telephone or the police.
There are duties for schools to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people. In essence it is required for all school staff to have knowledge of the signs and symptoms of abuse and a good understanding of the early help and child protection arrangements.
Schools also have additional responsibilities, for example in cases of suspected FGM, Peer on Peer abuse and children at risk of sexual exploitation.
In any case a formal referral to the police 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.
See the Referrals and Child Protection Enquiries - Section 46 Children and Young Person's Act 2001 Procedures for additional information.
The timing of referrals should reflect the level of perceived risk of harm, not longer than within one working day of identification or disclosure of harm or risk of harm.
In urgent situations, out of office hours, the referral should be made to the duty social worker from the out of hour's team.
It is important that practitioners are aware the Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR place duties on organisations and individuals to process personal information fairly and lawfully and to keep the information they hold safe and secure. The Data Protection Act 2018 contains 'safeguarding of children and individuals at risk' as a processing condition that allows practitioners to share information. This includes allowing practitioners to share information without consent.
Note: The Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR do not prevent, or limit, the sharing of information for the purposes of keeping children safe. Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare and protect the safety of children.
7. Hearing and Observing the Child
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 practitioners should be to listen carefully to what the child says and to observe the child's behaviour and circumstances to:
- Clarify the concerns;
- Offer re-assurance about how the child will be kept safe;
- Explain what action will be taken and within what timeframe.
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. However, the person hearing the initial disclosure should ensure that they have a good understanding of what the child is saying so they may need to ask some clarifying questions.
If the child can understand the significance and consequences of making a referral to LA Children and Families Division, they should be asked for their views.
It should be explained to the child that whilst their view will be taken into account, the practitioner has a responsibility to take whatever action is required to ensure the child's safety and the safety of other children.
8. Parental Consultation
Seeking consent from a parent or carer with parental responsibility should always be considered unless it endangers the child's safety. Informing a parent or carer may only mean advising that a referral has been made, as giving detailed information may impede the gathering of material evidence. For example, in circumstances where there are concerns or suspicions that a serious crime such as sexual abuse, domestic abuse or induced illness has taken place.
Where a practitioner decides not to seek parental agreement before making a referral, the decision must be clearly noted in the child's records with reasons, dated and signed and confirmed in the referral. Practitioners should consult with their line manager/designated safeguarding advisor, if at all practicable, for advice.
When a referral is deemed to be necessary in the interests of the child, and the parents have been consulted and are not in agreement, the following action should be taken:
- The parent/s withholding of permission must form part of the MARF to the Children and Families Division;
- The parent should be contacted to inform them that, after considering their wishes, a referral has been made.
A child protection referral from a practitioner cannot be treated as anonymous and where any court proceedings may follow, whether criminal or family court, the information may be made available.
9. Urgent Medical Attention
If the child is suffering from a serious injury, the professional must seek medical attention immediately from accident and emergency services and must inform the social worker from IRT, Children and Families Division and the duty consultant paediatrician at the hospital.
Where abuse is alleged, suspected or confirmed in a child admitted to hospital, the child must not be discharged until:
- The social worker from the Division of Children and Families and the child's parent or carer are notified by telephone that there are child protection concerns;
- A strategy meeting/discussion has been held, which should then include relevant hospital and other practitioner from other relevant agencies.
10. Making a Referral
Practitioners who have concerns about a child's welfare should make a referral to the Initial Response Team (IRT) Children and Families Division (by telephone if concerns are immediate). The referral should be made using a Multi- Agency Referral form (MARF), even when the duty social worker has initially been contacted by telephone with immediate concerns. See www.isleofmanscb.im.
The referral must include any information about the child/ren and family members. Where an early help assessment has been undertaken it should be used to support the referral but is not a prerequisite for making a referral.
If the child is known to have an allocated social worker, the referral should be made directly to them or in their absence to the social worker's manager.
The social worker and team manager 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 the team manager to establish progress.
For further details, see: Referrals Procedure.
11. Concerns Raised by a Member of the Public
When a member of the public telephones or approaches any agency with concerns about the welfare of a child or an unborn baby, the practitioner 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), primary medical practitioner (e.g. GP practice), practitioners providing other services, a lead practitioner for the child.
- Discuss the case with their manager and the agency's designated safeguarding children advisor to decide whether to:
- Make a referral to the duty social worker from IRT, Children and Families Division;
- Make a referral to the allocated social worker, if the case is open and there is one;
- Consider whether an early help assessment would be appropriate.
Record the referral contemporaneously, with the detail of information received and given, separating out fact from opinion as far as possible.
The opportunity for a face to face meeting or interview should be offered to the member of the public to clarify information and offer advice, if needed.
Members of the public should also be given the telephone number for Children and Families Division and encouraged to contact them directly, even when it is known that the child is an open case to Children and families Division.
The agency receiving the initial concern should always make a referral to Children and Families if the child or unborn baby is reported to have suffered significant harm or if the child is likely to suffer significant harm and should never rely upon the member of the public to do this.
When a duty social worker receives a telephone call from a member of the public the social worker must seek as much information as possible and record all of the basic details about the child or unborn baby before deciding what action is required. See the Referrals and Child Protection Enquiries - Section 46 Children and Young Person's Act 2001 Procedures for additional information.
Some people may prefer not to give their name, or they may disclose their identity but not wish for it to be revealed to the parent/s of the child concerned. Wherever possible, practitioners should respect a referrer's request for anonymity. However absolute anonymity cannot be guaranteed, as there are certain limited circumstances in which the identity of a referrer may have to be given (for example the court arena). Consideration for the referrer's safety may be an issue in some cases.
12. Non-recent (Historical) Abuse
Non-recent abuse (also known as historical abuse) is an allegation of neglect, physical, sexual or emotional abuse made by or on behalf of someone who is now 18 years or over, relating to an incident which took place when the alleged victim was under 18 years old.
Allegations of child abuse are sometimes made by adults and children many years after the abuse has occurred. There are many reasons for an allegation not being made at the time including fear of reprisals, the degree of control exercised by the abuser, shame or fear that the allegation may not be believed. The person becoming aware that the abuser is being investigated for a similar matter or their suspicions that the abuse is continuing against other children may trigger the allegation.
Reports of historical allegations may be complex as the alleged victims may no longer be living in the situations where the incidents occurred or where the alleged perpetrators are also no longer linked to the setting or employment role. Such cases should be responded to in the same way as any other concerns and the Referral Procedure should be followed. It is important to ascertain as a matter of urgency if the alleged perpetrator is still working with, or caring for, children.
Organisational responses to allegations by an adult of abuse experienced as a child must be of as high a standard as a response to current abuse because:
- There is a significant likelihood that a person who abused a child/ren in the past will have continued and may still be doing so;
- Criminal prosecutions can still take place despite the fact that the allegations are historical in nature and may have taken place many years ago.
If it comes to light that the historical abuse is part of a wider setting of institutional or organised abuse, the case will be dealt with according to the Organised and Complex Abuse.
13. Adult Services Responsibilities in Relation to Children
Adult services and practitioners working with adults need to be competent in identifying the service users' or patient's role as a parent. They need to be able to consider the impact of the adult's condition and/or behaviour on:
- A child's welfare and development;
- Family functioning;
- The adult's parenting capacity;
- Where a practitioner working with adults has concerns about the parent's capacity to care for the child and considers that the child is likely to be suffering significant harm or is being harmed, they should refer the child to Children and Families, Initial Response Team duty worker using a Multi-Agency Referral Form (MARF).
Where it is known that the child is an open case to Children and Families, the practitioner working with adults who has concerns relating to the child's wellbeing should inform the allocated social worker for the child by telephone without delay. The discussion should be clearly recorded on the child's case file by the child's social worker.
Requests for information about a child, which are often made to health practitioners such as GPs or specialist services for mental health or substance misuse, by LA children's social care should be directed to the correct practitioner and not dealt with by administrative staff or intermediaries.
14. Schools and Educational Establishments
One of the main sources of referrals about children is schools.
All Nurseries, schools, educational establishments and colleges must have regard to statutory guidance when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
'Keeping children safe in education' contains information on what schools and colleges should do and sets out the legal duties with which schools and colleges must comply.
The different schools and education settings for all age groups must 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.
Each establishment must have a designated safeguarding lead. 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 practitioners.
All nurseries, school and college staff have a responsibility to provide a safe environment in which children can learn.
All nurseries, school and college staff have a responsibility to identify children who may be in need of extra help or who are suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant harm. All staff then have a responsibility to take appropriate action, working with other services as needed. Staff members should be aware of the signs of abuse and neglect so that they are able to identify cases of children who may be in need of help or protection. Staff members working with children are advised to maintain an attitude of 'it could happen here' where safeguarding is concerned. When concerned about the welfare of a child, staff members should always act in the interests of the child.
In addition to working with the designated safeguarding lead staff members should be aware that they may be asked to support social workers to take decisions about individual children.
All educational establishments must have safe recruitment policies and procedures in place.
Clear policies and procedures in accordance with managing allegations against people who work with children must be in operation.