What To Do If You're Worried About a Child
If you have concerns that a child or young person under the age of 18 might be being harmed, it is important that you share your concerns.
- How do I contact a social worker? - share your concerns
- Will the parents be told who contacted the social worker?
- Will the police be involved?
- What actions will the social worker take?
- What happens next to keep children safe?
- Will the child be taken into care?
Most people feel anxious about making a referral about a child to social workers, mainly because they do not want to make a mistake and make things worse.
It would be worse to leave a child who needs help. It is always best to get advice and be wrong than to do nothing and allow a child to continue to be harmed.
Talking through your concerns with a member of the First Response Service can help clarify whether there is something to be worried about or not - share your concerns.
Download the First Response Referral Form (Word, 178KB).
- Call the First Response Service on: 020 8489 4470.
If you are calling between 5pm and 9am weekdays or at the weekend, call the Emergency Out-of-Hours Duty Team on: 020 8348 0000.
- Speak to a member of the multi-disciplinary First Response Team and explain your concerns
- Give as many details as possible about the child and the reasons for your concerns, including the child's date of birth, their contact details and who lives with the child
- You may be asked to follow up this phone referral in writing using the First Response Referral Form (Word, 178KB). Your completed form must reach the First Response Service as soon as possible so that they can intervene to protect children.
- The First Response Service will confirm receipt of your referral within 24 hours of the written record, listing their intended response
It is good practice to discuss your concerns with the parent when you plan to make a referral to social workers unless you think that this will place the child at risk of significant harm through the parents' actions or reactions.
In suspected sexual abuse, it is common practice not to let parents know about the referral immediately in case the child is intimidated and cannot provide evidence to the police and social workers.
If the person making the referral is a professional (voluntary or paid), such as a doctor or teacher, they cannot remain anonymous when making referrals.
Neighbours, friends and family members who pass information to social workers can ask to do so anonymously, and social workers will try to protect the person giving the information, where possible.
If a crime has been committed against a child, the police will also be involved.
The Police will check their records to see whether or not there is any criminal history. Police will jointly investigate allegations of child abuse with social workers.
When Haringey's First Response Service is told that a child or a young person might be being abused or neglected, they are under a duty to find out whether that child needs to be protected.
- The First Response Service will make a decision about the degree of risk to the child and the corresponding need for response
- The decision will be sent in writing to the parent or carer
- The referrer will also receive confirmation that their referral was received with the intended intervention
- A social worker will go and talk to the parent or carer to find out more
- A social worker will see and talk to the child in question, preferably on their own
- If the social worker thinks the child is at risk, they will discuss what needs to happen next to make them safe - see the child protection process
If social workers decide that the child is not at risk of serious harm, they may be able to offer the family extra help or support.
If the decision is that the child or young person is being harmed or is at risk of serious harm, there will be a Child Protection Conference and action will be taken to protect the child.
A Child Protection Plan will be developed to reduce the risk to the child, who will be given their own named social worker.
The social worker will let you know how they responded to your concerns.
Children are only taken into care if the police and social worker think the child or young person is in immediate danger and/or the plan to protect the child is not working.
The social worker has to get permission from the Court before any child is removed from home - this is called a Care Order.
Children are only removed from their families if there is no other solution.
Many people worry that their child will be removed. In fact, even after a Child Protection Conference, most children stay living at home with their parents.
Everyone working in child protection tries to keep children with their families as long as that is a safe place for them to be.
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