A ‘child at risk’ is a child who:
- is experiencing or is at risk of abuse, neglect or other kinds of harm; and
- who has needs for care and support (whether or not the authority is meeting any of those needs).
A child is abused and neglected when someone inflicts injury, or fails to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family, or in an institutional or community setting, by those known to them, or more rarely, by a stranger. A child is anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. 'Children', therefore, means 'children and young people' throughout. The fact that a child has become 16 years of age and may be living independently does not change their status or their entitlement to services or protection under the Children Act, 1989.
- be alert to potential indicators of abuse or neglect;
- be alert to the risks that abusers may pose to children;
- share their concerns so that information can be gathered to assist in the assessment of the child’s needs and circumstances;
- work with agencies to contribute to actions that are needed to safeguard and promote the child’s wellbeing
- support the child and their family.
Categories of abuse are physical, sexual, emotional/psychological, financial and neglect as outlined in the Social Services and Wellbeing Act (2014), Working Together to Safeguard People Volume 5 – Handling Individual Cases to Protect Children at Risk.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples for each of the categories of abuse and neglect (more detailed definitions can be found in the Wales Safeguarding Procedures section 2 - Recognising a child is at risk of harm – Pointers for Practice Signs and Indicators)
Hitting, slapping, over or misuse of medication, undue restraint or inappropriate sanctions
Threats of harm or abandonment, coercive control, humiliation, verbal or racial abuse, isolation or withdrawal from services or support networks, witnessing abuse of others
Forcing or enticing a child or young people to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening, including: physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways
This category will be less prevalent for a child but indicators could be:
- Not meeting their needs for care and support which are provided through direct payments
- Complaints that personal property is missing
Failure to meet basic physical, emotional or psychological needs which is likely to result in impairment of health and development
For information, advice or assistance
If you or others have concerns about the welfare of a child or young person, you must report it immediately.
S47 Enquiries commence once a strategy discussion/meeting decides that the evidence indicates such enquiries are necessary.
The purpose of S47 enquiries is to establish whether a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm and requires intervention to safeguard and promote their wellbeing. S47 enquiries are intended to: Gather information. Determine the best interests of the child and how to protect them from actual or likely significant harm. Inform any subsequent care and support plan. Consider the potential needs of any siblings, children or adults at risk within the household of the child in question or in contact with an alleged abuser. Inform decisions taken by both the police and social services about legal proceedings, whether criminal, civil or both.
Harm is defined as: Ill-treatment this includes sexual abuse, neglect, emotional abuse and psychological abuse. The impairment of physical or mental health. Intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development.
Responding to a report raising concerns
The local authority has a duty to respond to a report about a child at risk of harm, abuse or neglect. The relevant social services team must decide and record the next actions within one working day. In some circumstances, immediate action may be required. If the local authority has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is at risk of harm they should convene a strategy discussion/meeting to determine whether S47 enquiries should be initiated. The discussion/meeting should take place within one working day. In some cases, a single strategy discussion/meeting may be all that is required. However, families and their situations are complex; therefore, further strategy discussions/meetings can be useful. If concerns are substantiated and the child is judged to be at continued risk of significant harm a child protection conference should be convened by social services within 15 working days.
The role of the Social Worker
Social services have lead responsibility for the enquiries. The social worker who leads the enquiries must be qualified and have completed the relevant training.
Other practitioners such as the police, health, education and other relevant partners have a duty to co-operate and help social services undertake their enquiries. The overall remit for the social worker is to focus on the well-being and safety of the child and to identify actual and potential risk of significant harm.
Information gathering from parents
S47 enquiries require practitioners to establish whether the child/ren are at risk of significant harm because of the parenting capacity of their parent/s or carer/s and why this might be the case.
Information gathering from children
The voice of the child is central to understanding the abuse, neglect or harm that the child has or is experiencing. It is important, therefore that their lived experiences, wishes and feelings are given due consideration.
Child Care Assessment Team: 01437 776444
Social Services out of Hours: 0300 333 2222
In an emergency ring 999
Social Services and Well-being Act (Wales) 2014
Working together to safeguard children
Dewis Cymru is the place to go if you want information or advice about your well-being – or want to know how you can help somebody else.