If you are worried about a child or young person who could be in danger please contact
You can contact the police directly by dialling 101 and they will discuss with Children's Social Care what action should be taken. In an emergency always contact the police by dialling 999.
We will always deal with any calls in the strictest confidence.
If you suspect child abuse:
- Do listen to the child.
- Do take what the child says seriously.
- Do act quickly.
- Do share your worries with Children's Social Care, the police or the NSPCC - they are there to help you.
- Do continue to offer support to the child.
- Don't delay.
- Don't probe or push the child for explanations.
- Don't assume that someone else knows and will help the child. You must act.
- Don't be afraid to voice your concerns, the child may need urgent protection and help.
Safeguarding is everybody's business.
In law, young people are children until their 18th birthday. Child abuse can occur at any age from birth onwards. There can also be serious concerns pre-birth.
Abuse and neglect can affect a child at any age. The abuse can be so damaging that some children may take a long time to recover. In some cases the effects of the abuse will remain with the person forever.
Forms of abuse
There are many different forms of child abuse.
Child abuse occurs in all types of family and culture and in every part of the country.
Children can be abused by strangers, adults they know or members of their own family.
Children can be abused by the direct actions of an adult, such as a physical beating or because an adult fails to act, for example, by failing to provide proper food or clothing for a child.
Child abuse usually falls into one or more of four categories: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.
Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. It may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates symptoms of, or induces, illness in a child.
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill treatment of a child to cause severe and persistent effects on the child’s emotional development, and may involve:
- Telling a child that they are worthless, unloved, inadequate, or valued only to meet the needs of another person.
- Imposing developmentally inappropriate expectations, for example interactions beyond the child’s developmental capability, overprotection, limitation of exploration and learning, preventing the child from participation in normal social interaction.
- Causing a child to feel frightened or in danger, for example witnessing domestic violence, seeing or hearing the ill treatment of someone else.
- Exploitation or corruption of a child.
- Online bullying.
Some level of emotional abuse is involved in most types of ill treatment of children, though emotional abuse may occur alone.
Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities, including prostitution, whether or not they are aware of what is happening.
Activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative and non-penetrative acts. Sexual activities may also include non-contact activities, for example involving a child in looking at, or production of, abusive images (maybe online), watching sexual activities or encouraging them to behave in sexually inappropriate ways. Children under sixteen years of age cannot lawfully consent to sexual intercourse.
Neglect involves the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health and development.
Examples include failure:
- during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance misuse;
- to provide adequate food, clothing or shelter;
- to protect from physical and emotional harm or danger;
- to meet or respond to basic emotional needs;
- to ensure adequate supervision including the use of adequate care-takers;
- to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment;
- to make sure their educational needs are met; or
- to make sure their opportunities for intellectual stimulation are met.
We have a statutory duty to make enquiries where we have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, or is subject to an emergency protection order or police protection. Children's Social Care carries out these responsibilities on behalf of Somerset County Council.
We do not do this alone. We consult with other agencies and professionals. We take a lead role in managing individual cases but also rely on the assistance and co-operation of professionals in other agencies.
All children have a right to be safe from harm. Everyone is responsible for helping to keep children safe. If someone tells us that they are concerned about a child we need to find out more. The law says that children's services must ask questions to find out if a child is at risk of harm.
If a child or young person appears to be at risk because of neglect or abuse, we will investigate and make sure that the child is safe. We will carry out a thorough investigation, talking with families, doctors, health visitors, teachers and people who may be able to help us find a way to keep a child safe.
If we have special concerns about the child, we may hold a Child Protection Conference. This is a meeting with the family, Social Worker and other professionals to try to find a solution to the difficulties at home. We will always try to work with families to support and help them cope.
If we assess that abuse has, or may have taken place, the agencies involved will always consider what is best for the child - how to protect them and keep them safe.
For more information, please see the Somerset Safeguarding Children Board website https://slp.somerset.org.uk/sites/somersetlscb/
The site includes:
- Information for parents and carers
- Information for Professionals
You can find out more about online services and publications at these related websites: