CP1. Recognising Abuse and Neglect

For a record of all amendments and updates, see the Amendments & Archives.

Specific definitions of key concepts used by safeguarding practitioners are available through the Glossary.


This chapter was revised and updated in April 2024. New information was added about protected characteristics and definitions of abuse and neglect.

1. Introduction

The London Safeguarding Children Procedures are underpinned by Working Together to Safeguard Children 2023 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 two key principles:

  • Safeguarding is everyone's responsibility: for services to be effective each individual and organisation should play their full part; and
  • A child centred approach: for services to be effective they should be based on a clear understanding of the needs and views of children.

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2023 introduction:

"Nothing is more important than children’s welfare. Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, stable, and loving home. Children who need help and protection deserve high quality and effective support. This requires individuals, agencies, and organisations to be clear about their own and each other’s roles and responsibilities, and how they work together.

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined for the purposes of this guidance as:

  • Providing help and support to meet the needs of children as soon as problems emerge,
  • Protecting children from maltreatment, whether that is within or outside the home, including online
  • 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
  • Promoting the upbringing of children with their birth parents, or otherwise their family network through a kinship care arrangement, whenever possible and where this is in the best interests of the children
  • Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes in line with the outcomes set out in the Children’s Social Care National Framework.

Child protection is part of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and is defined for the purpose of this guidance as activity that is undertaken to protect specific children who are suspected to be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm. This includes harm that occurs inside or outside the home, including online.

Effective safeguarding means practitioners should understand and be sensitive to factors, including economic and social circumstances and ethnicity, which can impact children and families’ lives."

The London Safeguarding Children 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 professionals (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.

Individual children, especially some of the most vulnerable children and those at greatest risk of social exclusion, will need early co-ordinated help from health agencies, schools and education services, local authority children's social care, Children's Centres the private, voluntary, community and independent sectors, including youth justice services.

All agencies and professionals 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.
Caption: Responding to Concerns of Abuse and Neglect

1.1 Concept of significant harm


Some children are in need because they are suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm. The Children Act 1989 introduced the concept of significant harm as the threshold that justifies compulsory intervention in family life in the best interests of children, and gives local authorities a duty to make enquiries (Section 47) 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.

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. Harm can be determined ‘significant’ by “comparing a child’s health and development with what might be reasonably expected of a similar child (Children Act 1989). This definition was clarified in section 120 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (implemented on 31 January 2005) so that it 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.


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.


Significant harm may also refer to harm caused by one child to another (which may be a single event or a range of ill treatment) and which is generally referred to as 'peer on peer abuse.'

1.1.7 As well as threats to the welfare of children from within their families, children may be vulnerable to abuse or exploitation from outside their families. These extra-familial threats might arise at school and other educational establishments, from within peer groups, or more widely from within the wider community and/or online.
1.1.8 Some children have pre-existing vulnerabilities which may make them more susceptible to further and ongoing abuse. Children with learning difficulties, mental health challenges and who are socially isolated are more likely to be victims of online abuse and may find it difficult to disclose what is happening to them.

1.2 Early Help


The local agencies in any area should have in place effective ways to identify emerging problems and potential unmet needs for individual children and families as well as clear guidance and procedures for all professionals. This includes professionals and volunteers in universal services and those providing services to adults with children. The professionals should be supported through training and supervision to understand their role in identifying emerging problems and sharing information with other professionals to assist with early identification and assessment.

Effective early help relies upon local agencies working together 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. Local authorities, under section 10 of the Children Act 2004, have a responsibility to promote inter-agency cooperation to improve the welfare of children.


Professionals should be alert to the potential need for early help for a child who:

  • 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 engaging in 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 persistently absent from education, including persistent absences for part of the school day;
  • Is at risk of modern slavery, trafficking or child exploitation [1];
  • Is at risk of being radicalised or exploited;
  • Is at risk of so called ‘honour’-based abuse or Forced Marriage;
  • At risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM);
  • 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;
  • Has returned home to their family from care;
  • Is a privately fostered child;
  • Has a parent/carer in custody;
  • Is in a family circumstance presenting challenges for the child such as substance misuse, adult mental health problems or domestic abuse;
  • Is showing early signs of abuse or neglect.


Professionals working in universal services have a responsibility to identify the symptoms and triggers of abuse and neglect including new and emerging threats, including online abuse, grooming, sexual exploitation and radicalisation, to share that information and work together to provide children with the support they need.


Every Local Safeguarding Children Partnership [2] should publish and disseminate a threshold document, such as the Threshold Document that includes:

  • The process for the early help assessment and the type of early help services to be provided;
  • The criteria, including the level of need, for when a child should be referred to the local authority children's social care for assessment and for statutory services under:
    • Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 (children in need)
    • Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 (safeguarding)
    • Section 31of the Children Act 1989 (care proceedings)
    • Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (duty to accommodate a child).

The Threshold Continuum of need document is a tool to assist practitioners in their decision making in relation to referrals and assessments.

  [1] National Referral Mechanism Digital Referral System: Report Modern Slavery
[2] The Children and Social Work Act 2017 replaces the requirement for each local area to establish a Local Safeguarding Children Partnership (LSCP) with the establishment of a safeguarding partnership. Details of the local arrangements for each area were published in June 2019. The name of the partnership may vary from area to area.

1.3 Definitions of child abuse and neglect

As defined in 'Working Together to Safeguard Children' 2018 and 'Keeping Children Safe in Education' September 2022:



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. Harm can include ill treatment that is not physical as well as the impact of witnessing ill treatment of others. This can be particularly relevant, for example, in relation to the impact on children of all forms of domestic abuse. 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


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; see Fabricated or Induced Illness/Perplexing Presentations Procedure.

Emotional abuse


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;
  • 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, 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.

1.3.4 Children from more affluent families may suffer childhood neglect in less visible ways. It can be more difficult to spot, as the type of neglect experienced is often emotional.

Sexual abuse


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 (e.g. rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing.

Penetrative sex where one of the partners is under the age of 16 is illegal, although prosecution of similar age, consenting partners is not usual. However, where a child is under the age of 13 it is classified as rape under s5 Sexual Offences Act 2003. See Safeguarding Practice Guidance.


Sexual abuse includes non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, including online and with mobile phones, or in the production of pornographic materials, watching sexual activities or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet). Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.


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.



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 and violence 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.

1.3.12 Childhood obesity alone is a concern but not usually a child protection concern. This can change in the context of escalating health concerns when the parents are not engaging with or seek to undermine the support being offered to them. Obesity usually exists in a wider context of concerns about neglect or emotional abuse so practitioners should consider what else is going on in the child’s life.

Domestic Abuse


The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 says that behaviour is ‘abusive’ if it consists of any of the following:

  • Physical or sexual abuse;
  • Violent or threatening behaviour;
  • Controlling or coercive behaviour;
  • Economic abuse;
  • Psychological, emotional or other abuse

and it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct. The perpetrator of the abuse and the victim of the abuse have to be aged 16 or over and are ‘personally connected’ as intimate partners, ex-partners, family members or individuals who share parental responsibility for a child. There is no requirement for the victim and perpetrator to live in the same household.

Types of domestic abuse include intimate partner violence, abuse by family members, teenage relationship abuse and child to parent abuse. Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of sexual identity, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality or background and domestic abuse can take place inside or outside of the home.

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."

Domestic abuse has a significant impact on children and young people. Children may experience domestic abuse directly, as victims in their own right, or indirectly due to the impact the abuse has on others such as the non-abusive parent.

Domestic abuse in teenage relationships is just as severe and has the potential to be as life threatening as abuse in adult relationships.

See Domestic Abuse.

Extra-familial Harm

1.3.14 Children may be at risk of or experiencing physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and exploitation in contexts outside their families.
1.3.15 Extra-familial contexts include a range of environments outside the family home in which harm can occur. These can include peer groups, school, and community/public spaces, including known places in the community where there are concerns about risks to children (for example, parks, housing estates, shopping centres, takeaway restaurants, or transport hubs), as well as online, including social media or gaming platforms.
1.3.16 Working Together to Safeguard Children recognises that, whilst there is no legal definition for the term extra-familial harm, it is widely used to describe different forms of harm that occur outside the home. Children can be vulnerable to multiple forms of extra-familial harm from both adults and/or other children. Examples of extra-familial harm may include (but are not limited to): criminal exploitation (such as county lines and financial exploitation), serious violence, modern slavery and trafficking, online harm, sexual exploitation, child-on-child (nonfamilial) sexual abuse and other forms of harmful sexual behaviour displayed by children towards their peers, abuse, and/or coercive control, children may experience in their own intimate relationships (sometimes called teenage relationship abuse), and the influences of extremism which could lead to radicalisation.

Technology Assisted Abuse


Technology is a significant component in many safeguarding and wellbeing issues. Children are at risk of abuse and other risks online as well as face to face. In many cases abuse and other risks will take place concurrently both online and offline.

Children can also abuse other children online, this can take the form of abusive, harassing, and misogynistic/misandrist messages, the non-consensual sharing of indecent images, especially around chat groups, and the sharing of abusive images and pornography, to those who do not want to receive such content. Children can also be groomed online and through social media by people coercing or manipulating them to sexually or criminally exploit them or seeking to radicalise them.

See Online Safety.

Child on Child Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment


Keeping Children Safe in Education Part five: Child on Child Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment) sets out how schools and colleges should respond to all signs, reports and concerns of child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment, including those that have happened outside of the school or college premises, and/or online.

Sexual violence and sexual harassment can occur between two or more children of any age and sex, from primary through to secondary stage and into college. It can occur also through a group of children sexually assaulting or sexually harassing a single child or group of children. Sexual violence and sexual harassment exist on a continuum and may overlap; they can occur online and face-to-face (both physically and verbally) and are never acceptable.

Sexual Violence


Child on child sexual violence refers to sexual offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 as described below:

Rape: A person (A) commits an offence of rape if: he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis, B does not consent to the penetration and A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

Assault by Penetration: A person (A) commits an offence if: s/he intentionally penetrates the vagina or anus of another person (B) with a part of her/his body or anything else, the penetration is sexual, B does not consent to the penetration and A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

Sexual Assault: A person (A) commits an offence of sexual assault if: they intentionally touches another person (B), the touching is sexual, B does not consent to the touching and A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

NOTE - Schools and colleges should be aware that sexual assault covers a very wide range of behaviour so a single act of kissing someone without consent, or touching someone’s bottom/breasts/genitalia without consent, can still constitute sexual assault.

Sexual Harassment


Child on child sexual harassment means ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’ that can occur online and offline and both inside and outside of school/college. Sexual harassment is likely to: violate a child’s dignity, and/or make them feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated and/or create a hostile, offensive or sexualised environment.

Sexual harassment can include:

  • Sexual comments, such as: telling sexual stories, making lewd comments, making sexual remarks about clothes and appearance and calling someone sexualised names;
  • Sexual ‘jokes’ or taunting;
  • Physical behaviour, such as: deliberately brushing against someone, interfering with someone’s clothes. Schools and colleges should be considering when any of this crosses a line into sexual violence – it is important to talk to and consider the experience of the victim;
  • Displaying pictures, photos or drawings of a sexual nature;
  • Upskirting (this is a criminal offence); and

Online sexual harassment. This may be standalone, or part of a wider pattern of sexual harassment and/or sexual violence. It may include:

  • Consensual and non-consensual sharing of nude and semi-nude images and/or videos. Taking and sharing nude photographs of under 18s is a criminal offence. UKCIS Sharing nudes and semi-nudes: advice for education settings working with children and young people provides detailed advice for schools and colleges;
  • Sharing of unwanted explicit content;
  • Sexualised online bullying;
  • Unwanted sexual comments and messages, including, on social media;
  • Sexual exploitation; coercion and threats; and
  • Coercing others into sharing images of themselves or performing acts they’re not comfortable with online.

It is essential that all victims are reassured that they are being taken seriously and that they will be supported and kept safe. A victim should never be given the impression that they are creating a problem by reporting sexual violence or sexual harassment. Nor should a victim ever be made to feel ashamed for making a report.

See also: Addressing Child-on-child Abuse: a Resource for Schools and Colleges (Farrer and Co.)) which is intended to be used as a resource and reference document for practitioners.

See Harmful Behaviour.

Abuse as the result of discrimination based on a Protected Characteristic as defined by the Equalities Act 2010


Under the Equality Act 2010, there are nine protected characteristics that safeguard individuals from discrimination. These characteristics cover various aspects of a person’s identity and are essential for promoting equality and fairness:

  • Age: Protection against discrimination based on age, whether you’re young or older;
  • Disability: Ensures that individuals with physical or mental impairments are not treated unfairly;
  • Gender Reassignment: Protects those who undergo or plan to undergo a process to change their sex;
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership (in employment only): Ensures equal treatment for married couples and civil partners;
  • Pregnancy and Maternity: Covers pregnancy and the period after childbirth, including breastfeeding;
  • Race: Protects against discrimination based on color, nationality, ethnicity, or national origins;
  • Religion or Belief: Encompasses religious beliefs and philosophical convictions;
  • Sex: Ensures equal treatment regardless of gender;
  • Sexual Orientation: Protects individuals based on their sexual attraction (towards their own sex, opposite sex, or both).


No child or group of children must be treated any less favourably than others in being able to access effective services which meet their particular needs. To comply with the Equality Act 2010, safeguarding partners must assess and where appropriate put in place measures ahead of time.

to support all children and families to access services, overcoming any barriers they may face due to a particular protected characteristic.

1.4 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. 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.

See Referral and Assessment Procedure, Pre-birth and Pre-birth conference.

1.5 Professional / agency response


Professionals in all agencies, whatever the nature of the agency (whether public services or commissioned provider services) who come into contact with children, who work with adult parents/carers or who gain knowledge about children through working with adults, 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.


The law empowers anyone who has actual care of a child to do all that is reasonable in the circumstances to safeguard their welfare. Accordingly, professionals in all agencies should take appropriate action wherever necessary to ensure that no child is left in immediate danger, e.g. a teacher, foster carer, childminder, a volunteer or any professional should take all reasonable steps to offer a child immediate protection (including from an aggressive parent). Children Act 1989 S.3 (5)(a) and (b).

Child protection support for professionals


Each agency should have internal agency child protection procedures which are compliant with these London Child Protection Procedures. The safeguarding partnership will hold agencies to account for having these procedures in place as part of their arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Single / internal agency procedures must provide instruction to professionals in:

  • Identifying potential or actual harm to children;
  • Discussing and recording concerns with a first line manager / in supervision;
  • Analysing concerns by completing an assessment;

Discussing concerns with the agency designated safeguarding professional lead (able to offer advice and decide upon the necessity for a referral to local authority children's social care).


Professionals in all agencies should be sufficiently knowledgeable and competent to contact local local authority children's social care or the police about their concerns directly and to complete the appropriate referral form.


A formal referral to local authority children's social care, 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 designated safeguarding professional lead, or the completion of an assessment.

Duty to co-operate and refer


Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 places a duty on key persons and bodies to make arrangements in any local area to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and improve the outcomes for children.

All professionals in agencies with contact with children and members of their families must make a referral to local authority children's social care if there are signs that a child or an unborn baby:

  • Has suffered significant harm through abuse or neglect;
  • Or is likely to suffer significant harm in the future.


There are additional duties for schools to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people (Keeping children safe in education: Statutory guidance for schools and colleges). In essence these require all school staff to have knowledge of the signs and symptoms of abuse and an understanding of the local early help and child protection arrangements.

Schools also have specific responsibilities in cases of suspected FGM, Child on Child abuse and children at risk of sexual exploitation. In addition, patterns identified in schools may also be reflective of the wider issues within a local area and it would be good practice to share emerging trends with safeguarding partners.

The timing of such 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 local authority children's social care emergency duty team / out of hour's team.

Listening to 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 professionals should be limited to listening carefully to what the child says 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.


If the child can understand the significance and consequences of making a referral to local authority children's social care, they should be asked their view.


However, it should be explained to the child that whilst their view will be taken into account, the professional has a responsibility to take whatever action is required to ensure the child's safety and the safety of other children.

Information Sharing


Effective sharing of information between practitioners and local organisations and agencies is essential for early identification of need, assessment and service provision to keep children safe. Practitioners should be proactive in sharing information as early as possible to help identify, assess and respond to risks or concerns about the safety and welfare of children, whether this is when problems are first emerging, or where a child is already known to local authority children's social care (e.g. they are being supported as a child in need or have a child protection plan).


Information sharing is also essential for the identification of patterns of behaviour when a child is at risk of going missing or has gone missing, when multiple children appear associated to the same context or locations of risk, or in relation to children in the secure estate where there may be multiple local authorities involved in a child's care.


It is not necessary to seek permission from parents before sharing information by way of making a referral to another agency. See Information Sharing - S24 onwards - WT 2018 and the Sharing Information Procedure (under revision).


The Data Protection Act 2018 and General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) do not prevent 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. To ensure effective safeguarding arrangements:

  • Agencies should have arrangements in place that set out clearly the processes and the principles for sharing information. The arrangement should cover how information will be shared within their own organisation/agency and with others who may be involved in a child's life;
  • Practitioners should not assume that someone else will pass on information that they think may be critical to keeping a child safe. If a practitioner has concerns about a child's welfare and considers that they may be a child in need or that the child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm, then they should share the information with local authority children's social care and/or the police. All practitioners should be particularly alert to the importance of sharing information when a child moves from one local authority into another, due to the risk that knowledge pertinent to keeping a child safe could be lost;
  • The GDPR provides a number of bases for sharing personal information. It is not necessary to seek consent to share information for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child provided that there is a lawful basis to process any personal information required. The legal bases that may be appropriate for sharing data in these circumstances could be 'legal obligation' or 'public task' which includes the performance of a task in the public interest or the exercise of official authority. Each of the lawful bases under GDPR has different requirements14. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to obtain consent to share data but it is important to note that the GDPR sets a high standard for consent which is specific, time limited and can be withdrawn (in which case the information would have to be deleted).

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 local authority children's social care, 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:

  • Local authority children's social care local to the hospital and the child's home address (may be two different local authority children's social care) are notified by telephone that there are child protection concerns;
  • A strategy meeting / discussion has been held, if appropriate, which should then include relevant hospital and other agency professionals.

Initiating the referral


Referrals should be made to local authority children's social care for the area where the child is living or is found.


Where specific arrangements are made, or exist, for another borough to undertake an enquiry, the home local authority children's social care will advise accordingly and ensure that the referral process outlined in Referral and Assessment Procedure is followed.


If the child is known to have an allocated social worker, the referral should be made to them or in their absence to the social worker's manager or a duty children's social worker. In all other circumstances referrals should be made to the duty officer.


The referrer should confirm verbal and telephone referrals in writing, within 48 hours.


Where an assessment has been completed prior to referral, these details should also be conveyed at the point of referral.


Local authority children's social care 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 a line manager to establish progress.



The referrer should keep a formal record, whether hardcopy or electronic, of:

  • Discussions with the child;
  • Discussions with the  parent;
  • Discussions with their managers;
  • Information provided to local authority children's social care;
  • Decisions and actions taken (with time and date clearly noted, and signed).


The referrer should keep a copy of the written referral, confirming the verbal and telephone referral.

1.6 Response to and Concerns raised by members 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 professional 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), professionals providing other services, a lead professional for the child.
  • Discuss the case with their manager and the agency's designated safeguarding professional lead to decide whether to:
    • Make a referral to local authority children's social care;
    • Make a referral to the lead professional, if the case is open and there is one;
    • Make a referral to a specialist agency or professional e.g. educational psychology or a speech and language therapist;
    • Undertake an assessment.
  • Record the referral contemporaneously, with the detail of information received and given, separating out fact from opinion as far as possible.


The member of the public should also be given the number for their local local authority children's social care and encouraged to contact them directly. The agency receiving the initial concern should always make a referral to local authority children's social care and to the lead professional if there is one, in case the member of the public does not follow through (a common occurrence).


If there is a risk that the member of the public will disengage without giving sufficient information to enable agencies to investigate concerns about a child, the NSPCC national 24 hour Child Protection Helpline (0808 800 5000) and Childline (0800 1111) can be offered as an alternative means of reporting concerns. See Roles and Responsibilities Procedure, NSPCC.


Individuals may prefer not to give their name to local authority children's social care or NSPCC. Alternatively they may disclose their identity, but not wish for it to be revealed to the parent/s of the child concerned.


Wherever possible, professionals should respect the referrer's request for anonymity. However professionals should not give referrers any guarantees of confidentiality, as there are certain limited circumstances in which the identity of a referrer may have to be given (e.g. the court arena).

Referrals should not be deemed malicious without a full and thorough multi-agency assessment, including talking with the referrer and agreement with the appropriate manager. Referrals should also not be described as malicious in professional conclusions, due to the risks associated with this language.


Local publicity material should make the above position clear to potential referrers.


Local authority children's social care should offer the referrer the opportunity of an interview.

1.7 Schools and educational establishments


One of the main sources of referrals about children is schools, which means all schools whether maintained, non- maintained or independent schools, including academies and free schools, alternative provision academies and pupil referral units. 'School' includes maintained nursery schools.

All schools and colleges must have regard to the statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education; statutory guidance for schools and colleges (September 2018) when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This guidance from the Department for Education has been issued under Section 175 of the Education Act 2002, the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 and the Education (Non-Maintained Special Schools) (England) Regulations 2015.

'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. It should be read alongside the statutory guidance 'Working Together to Safeguard Children', which applies to all the schools referred to above, and departmental advice 'What to do if you are worried a child is being abused - Advice for practitioners'.

The different schools  and education settings for all age groups should 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 should have a designated professional lead for safeguarding. 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 professionals and the safeguarding partnership.


All school and college staff have a responsibility to provide a safe environment in which children can learn.


All 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. All school and college 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.

All staff should be aware that children can abuse other children (often referred to as child-on-child abuse), and that it can happen both inside and outside of school or college and online. All staff should be clear as to the school's or college's policy and procedures with regard to child-on-child abuse and the important role they have to play in preventing it and responding where they believe a child may be at risk from it.

Schools and colleges should be aware of the importance of:

  • Making clear that there is a zero-tolerance approach to sexual violence and sexual harassment, that it is never acceptable, and it will not be tolerated. It should never be passed off as 'banter, 'just having a laugh', 'a part of growing up' or 'boys being boys'. Failure to do so can lead to a culture of unacceptable behaviour, an unsafe environment and in worst-case scenarios a culture that normalises abuse, leading to children accepting it as normal and not coming forward to report it;
  • Recognising, acknowledging, and understanding the scale of harassment and abuse and that even if there are no reports it does not mean it is not happening, it may be the case that it is just not being reported;
  • Challenging physical behaviour (potentially criminal in nature) such as grabbing bottoms, breasts and genitalia, pulling down trousers, flicking bras and lifting up skirts. Dismissing or tolerating such behaviours risks normalising them.

See also: Keeping Children Safe in Education Part five: Child on Child Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment and Addressing Child-on-child Abuse: a Resource for Schools and Colleges (Farrer and Co.).


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 including Free Schools, Academies, Children's Centres/ nurseries, public schools and colleges must have safe recruitment policies and procedures in place.


Clear policies and procedures in accordance with the safeguarding partnership procedures for managing allegations against people who work with children must be in operation.

1.8 Adult services responsibilities in relation to children


All agencies, where professionals offer services to adults who may be parents or have close contact with children and / or to families, should have procedures and protocols in place for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. These should include arrangements for timely multi-disciplinary assessments with children's specialists in their own services and with other agencies, including local authority children's social care and the police. See Roles and Responsibilities Procedure.


Adult services and professionals working with adults need to be competent in identifying the client or patient's role as a parent. They need to be able to consider the impact of the adult's condition or behaviour on:

  • A child's development;
  • Family functioning;
  • The adult's parenting capacity.


Professionals working with adults can access further advice in the Pan London Adult Safeguarding Policies and Procedures and relevant local Adult Safeguarding Procedures.


Where a professional working with adults has concerns about the parent's capacity to care for the child and considers that the child is likely to be harmed or is being harmed, they should immediately refer the child to the police or local authority children's social care, in accordance with their agency's child protection procedures.

1.9 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. [1]

[1] NSPCC website definition, Referencing the iicsa (www.iicsa.org.uk/)


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 non – recent allegations of abuse 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 and Assessment 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. Children's Social Care may not become directly involved initially if the person is known not to have current access to children or be likely to have access in the future.

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 non – recent in nature and may have taken place many years ago.

If it comes to light that the alleged non-recent 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 Procedure.

1.10 Health agencies, NHS reforms and information sharing


Safeguarding Vulnerable People in the NHS - Accountability and Assurance framework - updated June 2015 sets out the framework for health organisations. The complexity of health agencies as provider and commissioning organisations requires particular vigilance by professionals in their different roles when concerns arise about a child. Many different health professionals may be providing a service from one location such as a General Practice but reporting to different management/professional systems, such as GPs, Health Visitors, Practice Therapists and a range of others. The use of information systems and good practice in sharing information should be part of any procedures and practice guidance in any health setting. See also: Protecting children and young people: The responsibilities of all doctors.


Other agencies should be assisted to understand how the information they share with a health professional will be managed and who will have access to it. All email correspondence containing personal information or case discussions should be sent securely and always copied into case records. Requests for information about a child from health professionals by local authority children's social care should be directed to the correct professional and not dealt with by administrative staff or intermediaries.


In April 2013, there were changes to the commissioning landscape. Local Authorities took responsibility for public health supported by Public Health England. Additionally, the commissioning responsibility for Health visiting and Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) was transferred from NHS England to Public Health in Local authorities in April 2015. Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are responsible for commissioning several local health services.  NHS England supports CCGs and holds them to account. It is also responsible for directly commissioning specialist health services, primary care, prison health care and health visiting.


Commissioning and provider organisations employ safeguarding children professionals to take the lead on safeguarding children matters. The roles and responsibilities of designated and named safeguarding children professionals should be clear and accessible to all staff.

  • NHS England (London Region) employ a Safeguarding Children Lead Nurse and a Safeguarding Children Paediatrician. They work closely with the Designated Professionals employed by CCGs and with Named GPs for safeguarding children on specific issues relating to primary care;
  • Each CCGs is required to have secured the expertise of Designated Professionals including a Designated Nurse and Doctor for Safeguarding Children, a Designated Doctor and Nurse for Looked After Children and a Paediatrician responsible for Child Death Review Processes. Designated professionals for Safeguarding Children as local clinical experts and strategic leaders are a vital source of advice and support to the CCG, NHS England, the Local Authority, local safeguarding children partnership Health and Wellbeing Board and health professionals in all provider organisations;
  • Provider Trusts and Foundation Trusts employ Named Doctor's and Named Nurses for Safeguarding Children for operational safeguarding children matters including professional advice, training and supervision.