• International Workplace
  • 28 February 2017

Working with children: recognising abuse

A new guideline to help people who work with children spot and stop abuse or neglect is being published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The guideline outlines how social workers, teachers and police officers, along with others working outside healthcare, can spot the signs of abuse or neglect and how they should act faced with a range of differing circumstances.

The guideline includes physical, mental and sexual abuse as well as newly recognised forms of abuse such as female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual exploitation, child trafficking and forced marriage. It outlines ‘soft signs’ that in themselves do not indicate abuse but warrant further consideration and harder warning signs that professionals should investigate.

Professor Corinne May-Chahal, a leading researcher in child protection at Lancaster University and chair of the guideline committee, said:

“Our awareness of the different forms of child abuse and neglect is developing all the time but it is difficult for professionals to keep track of the best ways to assess abuse and intervene effectively.

"This guideline is important as it will help professionals spot the warning signs and focus on what early help and interventions can be provided.”

The new draft guideline says staff should make sure children know they have been listened to and that they understand and are comfortable with discussions. It calls on staff to use their judgement, following up where necessary to make sure action has been taken.

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive of NICE, said:

 “We want all professionals to be aware and recognise when they need to ask questions or follow up with colleagues about a child’s wellbeing. Not all cases will cause concern but if we do not ask, we may miss opportunities to protect children in their time of need.”

The draft is available for public comment in a consultation. NICE wants to hear people’s views on the draft guideline and these will be taken into account before final publication. Public consultation on the guideline will run until Wednesday 19 April.

Meanwhile, the Government has published its consultation response on a statutory definition of child sexual exploitation. The current definition was published in the 2009 statutory guidance ‘Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation’ but is widely considered by practitioners to be unclear and out of date.

On 12 February 2016 the Government consulted on revising the current definition. The aim of the consultation was to agree a clear, common definition of child sexual exploitation which would be used by practitioners across all sectors.

The document ‘Definition of child sexual exploitation: Government consultation response’ provides a summary of the responses to the consultation and sets out a new, revised definition of child sexual exploitation:

The final revised definition is:

“Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It 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.”

International Workplace has developed an introductory level eLearning course, Safeguarding for schools and colleges, designed to introduce the principles and practice of safeguarding for people who work occasionally or often with children (aged 5-18) and vulnerable adults.