You might have heard people talking about Early Help or Child Protection, you might even have been given a social worker to support you. The information on this page will help you to understand what some of these words mean and what the different services do.
Child protection is the term used to describe the actions of some organisations such as Children’s Services, the police and Health organisations, in their efforts to make sure children are safe from abuse and neglect.
According to the law, there are 4 main types of abuse that could cause harm or neglect. These are:
- Physical Abuse: when an adult deliberately hurts a child, such as hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, drowning or suffocating.
- Emotional Abuse: this would happen, for example, when a child is being unfairly blamed for everything all the time; or told they are stupid and made to feel unhappy.
- Sexual Abuse: an example of sexual abuse would be where a child is forced to take part in sexual activities; or in taking rude photos.
- Neglect: this is when a child is not being looked after properly; for example, not getting enough to eat, or being left alone in dangerous situations.
More information about what abuse can look like and how to keep safe can be found at the NSPCC website.
Child abuse is very serious and can have major long term effects on all aspects of a child’s health, development, self image, self esteem and wellbeing.
All those who come into contact with children and families in their everyday work, including people who do not have a specific role in relation to child protection, have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
What is an Enquiry?
It’s what we do when we need to make sure that children are OK. Sometimes adults or other young people hurt children or make them feel bad or afraid. This shouldn’t happen – if it happens to you, we’re here to help you and to find out what’s going on.
Who are “We”?
We are social workers. Our job is to listen to what you want to tell us. Sometimes a policeman will come with us. Please ask us questions at any time and tell us what you think should happen.
What Happens Next?
We will also need to talk to other people, such as your family. We need to find out what happened and why. The most important thing to remember is that you’ve done nothing wrong. You’re not in any kind of trouble. We want to see if you need our help.
When we’ve spoken to all the people we need to speak to, we will decide what should happen. It may be that nothing needs to happen. Or we may give your family some help and advice. Sometimes we need to call a meeting called a Child Protection Conference.
What is a Child Protection Conference?
It’s a meeting held when “professionals” (people such as doctors, teachers, social workers) are worried that children may be coming to harm because of the way they are being looked after.
You can watch a short video that explains "What is a Child Protection Conference?" click to watch
What sort of harm?
Harm can take several forms:
When an adult deliberately hurts a child, such as hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, drowning or suffocating.
Where a child is not being looked after properly, for example, not getting enough to eat or being left alone in dangerous situations.
This would happen, for instance, when a child is all the time being unfairly blamed for everything, or told they are stupid and made to feel unhappy.
Examples would be where a child has been forced to take part in sexual activities or in the taking of rude photos.
Who will be at the Conference?
Your parent(s) will usually be there as well as your social worker, your teacher, your doctor and maybe someone from the Police Child Protection Unit. Other people who have been involved in your life may also be there. There will be someone in charge called a Chairperson and someone taking notes of what is said.
What happens at the Conference?
The people present will say what they know and think about you and your family. This will mean talking about anything that worries them but also the good things. After this they have to decide whether your name should be put on the Child Protection List (or, if it’s already on, whether it should stay on).
What is a child protection list?
It’s a list of children who Conferences have thought are in need of a Child Protection Plan to keep them safe from harm.
What is the child protection plan?
This is a list of things that need to happen to make sure you will be safe and well, for example:
- seeing your doctor regularly;
- getting to school ok;
- someone seeing you and talking to you regularly about how things are going for you;
- how to stop the abuse/harm.
Can a Conference take me away from my parents?
No. Only a Court can decide that you must live away from home. A Conference is not a Court.
Can I go to a Conference?
Sometimes, yes, but it will depend on a number of things. Your Social Worker will talk to you about this to explain more fully what the conference is about and to answer your questions. If, after that talk, we all agree that you should be there then we’ll try to help you as much as we can – we know that meetings can be worrying.
You might, for instance, think of another adult who knows you well and who you would like to be there to support you.
It might be best, sometimes, if you only attend for part of the Conference. Again, that will be discussed with you.
In some cases we might have to say that you can’t go along, even if you want to, but that would be unusual.
What if I don’t attend?
Your Social Worker will talk to you to find out how you are and what you feel so that he or she can tell the meeting on your behalf. Even better you could write something yourself which could be read out at the Conference. We will always try as hard as we can to make sure the Conference knows your views and feelings.
Your Social Worker will try to answer all your questions. If you do come to the Conference you will be able to meet the Chairperson first. They can also answer any questions you have.
Useful phone numbers
Childline – (0800) 1111 – Provides a free telephone counselling service for young people in trouble or danger.
ASK Helpline – 80800 – ASK is a free, confidential text service for 14-25 year olds in County Durham. Text ASK (followed by your question) to 80800. The service has a comprehensive internal and external referral network to help the young person receives support. Qualified Youth Workers operate the helpline from the Cornforth Partnership.
CAMHS Crisis & Liaison Team (Mental Health) – 0191 4415733
You can find out more about sexual exploitation from the Barnados website.
Mental Health Crisis? – Children, adults and older people can contact TEWV crisis services free of charge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on tel. 0800 0516 171.
People with learning disabilities and/or autism can also use this number.
There are many services in Durham that provide support to children and young people who may be concerned about their mental or emotional health – get a list of these services (and when it opens you can click on the names to get more information).