Together, we can tackle child abuse

In an effort to eradicate child abuse, Somerset County Council is supporting a national campaign raising awareness on how to report the issue.

The “Together, we can tackle child abuse” campaign has been launched by the Department for Education to encourage the public to act when they suspect child abuse or neglect. It aims to dispel certain misconceptions the public have about making a report to Children’s Services.

A third of people who suspect child abuse do nothing. In the South West in particular, 37 percent of the public are put off reporting because they think they might be wrong.

The reality is that information is usually gathered from lots of different sources, like teachers, GPs and from the police, so any report made by a member of the public would just form one part of a bigger picture.

In 2014/15, more than 400,000 children in England were supported because someone noticed they needed help. In Somerset, we supported nearly 9,000 vulnerable children and young people in the same year.

We all have a role to play in protecting children and young people from all forms of abuse and neglect. If you are already in contact with a professional with a role in looking after children, for example a police officer, then you can raise concerns with them.

If you have a concern about a child at your child’s school, then raise it with the school – there will be a member of staff with a responsibility to listen to safeguarding concerns. They are trained to understand when a child may need help from Children’s Social Care or whether another agency could support the family.

Although child abuse and neglect can happen, lots of work goes into preventing it. Health visitors, police officers, school nurses, housing officers and others all work together to help families before they need support from Children’s Social Care. They also work with social workers when they do become involved.

Cllr Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “All children have a right to be safe and should be protected from all forms of abuse and neglect. If you have a feeling that something’s not right, talk to someone. Partner agencies across Somerset all work together to protect children and young people from abuse and neglect.

“There is a common misconception that reporting a child or family to the ‘social services’ means the child will be removed from their family immediately by social workers. This is not true. Social workers protect vulnerable children and provide support to families in need of assistance. Sharing your concerns with someone will rarely lead to a child being taken into care, but could mean we spot a problem sooner and can take action to help the child and the family concerned.”

“Another common misconception is that child abuse only happens in urban areas. Child abuse and neglect can happen anywhere and we all have a role to play in protecting children and young people.”

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If you’re worried about a child, phone Somerset County Council’s call centre on 0300 123 2224. If you’re worried about a child’s immediate safety, contact the police by dialling 999.