It is acknowledged that bullying is a form of abuse and such allegations must be taken seriously.
With regard to allegations of sexual abuse it is important to differentiate between normal sexual exploration and sexually abusive behaviour.
In attempting to decide whether or not sexual abuse may have occurred the following should be considered:
- coercion on the part of the child against whom an allegation has been made
- the intent of the young perpetrator
- age/size/developmental difference between the child against whom the allegation has been made and the alleged victim
Referrals regarding sexualised behaviour of young children and situations where the alleged perpetrator is very young and does not understand the full impact of the behaviour on others may be explored in the first instance at an initial referral discussion.
Initial response to the victim
The following must be borne in mind by the person in whom the young person confided:
- the allegation must be taken seriously. The allegation must be acknowledged with the young person and he/she must be advised that it will be investigated
- the allegation must be recorded as soon as possible after the young person has spoken. Hand-written notes must be retained on file.
How to do it
The needs and welfare of the victim must be paramount
The immediate safety of the alleged victims and other children must be considered.
An assessment of the immediate risk posed by the child against whom allegations have been made to the alleged victim and other children must be undertaken.
In considering whether the alleged perpetrator can remain in the residential establishment the following must be considered:
- the victim’s views regarding the alleged perpetrator continuing to reside there
- the views of any other children regarding the alleged perpetrator continuing to reside there
- the views of the child who is alleged to have abused
- the views of the parents
- the alleged perpetrator’s attitude in relation to the alleged abuse
- the capacity of staff in the residential establishments to implement thorough supervisory arrangements; this is linked to the attitude of the alleged abuser and his/her level of co-operation with staff.
If it is decided that the alleged perpetrator should be transferred to another placement, then careful consideration must be given to the possible risk to children in the new placement and how this will be managed. Full information must be given to staff in the new placement.
Notification – local authority and outwith authority placements
An allegation of abuse by a child should be reported to the Co-ordinator (Specialist Services) who will provide advice and guidance to the team leader responsible for the child as to how the investigation should proceed.
Where multiple allegations are made co-ordination is required between local authorities and organisations to prevent duplication of actions. The Co-ordinator (Specialist Services) will ensure that appropriate efforts are made to share information and plan and act on a collaborative basis.
Deciding how the allegation should be investigated and by whom
As with investigations into allegations of abuse by residential staff, the only major difference between these procedures and those for investigating allegations of abuse of children in the community is that registration is not included within the process for dealing with allegations of abuse in residential care. Allegations of abuse perpetrated by children and young people should be taken seriously.
Where the allegation is unclear it must be decided who should speak further with the young person to obtain more information.
Where it is believed that child protection measures are required the police should be contacted and joint agreement reached on how to proceed.
Consideration should be given to the victim’s social worker and police jointly interviewing the victim.
When a child against whom allegations of abuse have been made it is interviewed by police, the child must be advised of the right to legal advice and/or the presence of a trusted adult during the interview.
Advising relevant others
The social worker for the victim and the social worker for the alleged perpetrator must be advised of the allegation as soon as possible. The social worker for the victim should advise the victim’s family of the allegation. The social worker for the alleged perpetrator should advise this family of the allegation unless this would be jeopardise any possible legal proceedings.
Support to the victim throughout the investigation process
The social worker and /or residential key worker should offer specific support to the victim throughout this period.
At an appropriate stage the victim can be advised of independent support systems which are available to them.
The victim’s consent for any interviews must be obtained and he/she must be consulted about the process. In particular the victim should be given the opportunity of having a support person present during interviews. The parent’s consent should be sought where appropriate.
The victim’s consent must be obtained for any medical examinations. See Chapter 5.
The victim’s views must be taken into account regarding the investigation process and the outcome.
Support to the child against whom allegations have been made
The social worker and/or residential key worker should offer specific support to the alleged perpetrator throughout this period.
At an appropriate stage the alleged perpetrator can be advised of independent support systems which are available to him/her.
Conducting the investigation
Those conducting the investigation should be provided with:-
- the allegation in writing
- all statements and reports available in relation to the allegation.
- medical examination results where appropriate.
The investigators should plan what questions are to be asked beforehand. One person should ask questions and the other take notes. A written record of each interview should be completed and signed by both investigators. A final report summarising the main findings and recommendations should be completed and signed by both investigators.
The safety of other children
Any investigation must also address the possibility of the safety of other children within the residential establishment or in the community.
Communicating the outcome to relevant parties
Any actions decided upon as a result of the investigation must be communicated, at the earliest possible opportunity, to the young persons and their families/carers.
A record of the investigation must be maintained in the victim’s file. An account of the allegations made, how they were investigated and the outcome should be retained in the alleged perpetrator’s file.
Initial referral discussion on the child against whom allegations have been made
With regard to alleged sexual abuse consideration should be given to the Co-ordinator Children’s Services to convening an initial referral discussion – See chapter 3, Section 2.9 for further guidance.
Any involvement of a young person who is denying the offence(s) in a programme of work relating in any way to sexually abusive tendencies could potentially prejudice his/her future court case. The Co-ordinator, Children Services must discuss with the Procurator Fiscal any possibility of the young person being involved in a programme of direct work which relates to sexually abusive behaviour.
In such instances the Co-ordinator, Children Services should advise the procurator fiscal and the reporter in writing of this and seek advice and a speedy progression of the case.
Young people who are admitting to the offences may agree to embark on a programme of work.
Consideration should be given to securing a legal mandate to seek the young person’s attendance at a programme of work designed to address his/her sexually abusive tendencies e.g. to attend as a condition of a probation order or supervision requirement.
Young peoples’ right to apply for criminal injuries compensation
Young people who have been abused in residential care are entitled to apply for Criminal Injuries Compensation. This is outlined in greater detail in Chapter 15.