Making enquiries into allegations of abuse or neglect
Coping with allegations of child abuse is a difficult experience for everybody concerned. These notes hopefully will help you understand why Children’s Social Care need to be involved and how we deal with them.
It is a fact some children do get abused. Abuse can mean physical harm, sexual harm, emotional harm or neglect. It is important there are systems in place to deal with this and that children feel safe.
Within the law, children have the right to be safe and protected from harm and Cheshire West and Chester Children's Social Care acts within the law to ensure children in the Borough are safe. When they have been harmed or there is reason to believe they could be at risk of harm, there are procedures in place to deal with this and to make sure children receive all the help and support they need and to make sure they are safe from any harm in the future.
Sometimes children themselves will tell someone they know about how they are being treated, for example, their teacher or a neighbour. They could also tell a friend or relative. Anyone can report these concerns, including parents themselves. The police may also be informed and Children’s Social Care will talk to them about how this will be dealt with.
When allegations are made
We have to check on every report we receive. We have to satisfy ourselves that children are not in danger. That is the law.
If anyone is worried about what might be happening to a child, we want them to tell us. We will listen to what they have to say and consider the information very carefully. We will decide on how best to deal with the information we have received.
What we do next
We check our own records and, as part of our enquiries, we talk to other professionals who may know something - such as teachers, health visitors and the police. We ask whether they know anything that can help explain the report we have had and we always record what they say.
If judged necessary, we then visit the family involved. Usually we like to see the whole family and in particular the children themselves.
We explain to the family what we have been told and will talk to them in detail about this. We will always discuss things with people and explain our concerns. We also make notes so what we are told is recorded accurately.
Children's Social Care staff may visit without an appointment, especially in more serious situations where there is some urgency. Where appropriate, the police may visit with the social worker. All workers carry identity cards and these should be examined carefully. If people are not satisfied about the identity of the visitors, they should check with the Cheshire West and Chester Children's Services or the police.
Social workers will never try to examine a child themselves. If any such examination is believed necessary there is a clear procedure for this and parents will be advised about it.
Social workers have no automatic right of entry into people's homes. What is important is that we work with families in the best interests of children. We want communities and families to understand the need for us to be thorough in our work so we can make sure children are safe and where this is not the case, that we need to take the necessary action to make sure they are safe.
Due to the nature of our work, sometimes people can feel threatened. We understand this can be stressful and we advise families that we need to work together during these difficult times. With this in mind we will always make sure that our staff are also safe when carrying out their enquiries.
We have to be satisfied that children are safe from harm.
If the allegations or concerns are unfounded we will say so, and tell the children's parents. In these situations we may offer some support through our Integrated Early Support Service.
If the concerns are substantiated, the case will be examined by a manager and families will be advised about any next steps. We will discuss with parents what action may follow, or what needs to change to make sure the children are safe and protected.
Our aim is always to try and work with families to keep them together. It is only when a child cannot be kept safe at home that we would act in accordance with the law and make any necessary arrangements to protect the child. Where this is the case there is clear legislation about we can and can’t do. In some cases voluntary arrangements can be agreed with parents; in others, we may need the help of a Family Court. In those situations, where it may be necessary for the child to live elsewhere, our aim is to work closely with families to address concerns, and for the child to return home as soon as it is safe to do so.
Whatever decisions are made, we will continue to work with families, hopefully agreeing with them on how best to keep their child safe.
We investigate each situation as sensitively as we can. However, because of the nature of what we have to discuss, we understand this can be distressing for families.
We hope that all those involved will understand that we have to be thorough to make sure children are protected. Our aim is to make decisions that families are in agreement with. Where this is not possible, we will always explain the reasons for the decisions we may need to make.
It helps us if you tell us how you have been treated, whether you are happy or unhappy. If you are unhappy about any aspect of our work or the way in which you have been treated, you have the right to raise this through the Complaints and Representations Procedure. Details are available from your social worker or from the Integrated Access and Referral Team (i-ART) on 0300 123 7047.