What you can do if you are worried about a child or young person
If you have identified behaviours which may indicate that a child or young person is experiencing domestic abuse at home in in their relationship you should discuss your concerns with an appropriate senior manager or your agency’s safeguarding lead to agree an appropriate response.
If a child or young person has disclosed domestic abuse to you, try not to appear shocked, listen to what they tell you and explain that you will have to share information to keep them safe but you will tell them what is going to happen and ensure they understand everything fully.
If you have immediate safeguarding concerns or are worried someone is likely to be harmed, call the police on 999 and/or contact First Point: 01454 866000.
Schools/agencies/practitioners should use their professional judgement in discussing issues of domestic abuse with children and young people. These discussions should be conducted in an appropriate manner and in line with school/agency protocols on confidentiality.
You should avoid asking open and non-directive questions to ensure you do not interfere with any formal investigations. Instead try to assess the immediate risks and safeguarding concerns, e.g. is it safe for them to go home?
Document any key information shared with you (including dates and times) and what action you took – including who you shared the information with, what referrals you made.
Be clear when talking to a child or young person that they know they are being believed, that they understand that the abuse isn’t their fault and that they are aware of who they can go to for support.
Professionals are advised if they have further concerns about a child or young person, which are not immediate safeguarding concerns, they should contact the relevant social care team or initiate a Single Assessment for Early Help (SAFeh) in order to appropriately identify and respond to their needs.
Supporting a child or young person
Various types of support can be offered to children and young people, much of which can be very straight forward, simple to put in place and can be invaluable to a child or young person experiencing domestic abuse
There may be practical support options that can be put in place, such as:
- contacting outside agencies to offer support
- consider peer support
- look into ways to support with the cost of uniforms etc.
- finding a safe place for them to eat lunch, complete homework
- ensure they do not feel isolated or left out
- ensure that any support offered is discreet and does not further isolate them
- ask the child or young person what they feel will help them in terms of support, or any changes to their school day that may help
When considering domestic abuse around children and young people it may also be important to consider issues such as:
Forced Marriage “A marriage without the consent of one or both parties and where duress is a factor.“
Duress is: “[when] the mind of the applicant has been overborne, howsoever that was caused.“
Duress can include physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure.
An arranged marriage is very different from a forced marriage. An arranged marriage is entered into freely by both people, although their families take a leading role in the choice of partner.
If you are concerned that a child or young person may be forced to marry, you should discuss this with your safeguarding lead. You can also contact the Forced Marriage Unit (national Home Office number 020 7008 0151) for advice and support. Please also ensure you contact the police (101) and First Point: 01454 866000.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
FGM is illegal and a form of child abuse; if you suspect a child may be at risk of this practice or has already undergone FGM you must take action immediately and discuss with your safeguarding lead. You should also contact FirstPoint: 01454 866000 or the police on 101.
Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)
Child Sexual Exploitation is a criminal act that has a devastating impact upon children and young people and has an increasing profile following significant investigations that have led to prosecutions.
Whilst CSE can take a number of forms, three areas have been identified by Barnardo’s:
- Inappropriate relationships involving a lone perpetrator who has inappropriate power or control over a young person, whether physical (including domestic abuse), emotional or economic. There is likely to be a significant age gap between the perpetrator and victim. The young person may believe that they are in a loving, equal relationship.
- The “boyfriend” model of exploitation and peer exploitation – the perpetrator befriends and grooms a young person into a “relationship” and subsequently coerces them to have sex with friends or associates. This includes gang exploitation and peer on peer exploitation.
- Elements of organised/net worked sexual exploitation or trafficking – young people (often connected) are passed through networks possibly over geographical distances between towns and cities, where they may be forced/coerced into sexual activity with multiple men. Often this occurs at ‘sex parties’, and young people who are involved may be used as agents to recruit others into the network. Some of this activity is described as serious organised crime and can involve the organised ‘buying and selling’ of young people by perpetrators.
Barnardos: Puppet on a String 2011