To decide what to do next, you should talk to the designated manager within your own agency. This will probably be your line manager, though it could be a child protection coordinator. Share your concerns and discuss any differences of opinion. However you must refer or ask a social worker for advice if you disagree with your manager – it is your responsibility and you should not be dissuaded if you believe a child to be at risk of harm.
How to do it
It may help to look at the supplementary procedures: signs and symptoms of possible child abuse. as well as being aware that there are further suggestions under ‘supplementary guidance’.
The following questions will help you and your manager decide what to do next:
- what is your concern?
- how long have you been concerned?
- who else has concerns?
- what do you think could be happening to the child?
- list a range of possible things that could be happening, rather than jumping to one conclusion. How could you find out whether each of these possibilities is true?
- what information do you have already?
- what have you already done to address your concerns?
- have you discussed your concerns with the parents and the child or young person?
- if yes – what did they say?
- if no – why not?
- what would be the possible impact on the child?
Your manager should question you about the reasons for your concerns. If you still have concerns, the situations isn’t urgent but are not sure what action to take, you (or your manager) can talk to staff at one of the following numbers:
SOCIAL WORK (INITIAL RESPONSE SERVICE): 01292 267675
AYRSHIRE OUT OF HOURS- Out of hours evenings, weekends or public holidays – 0800 328 7758
POLICE SCOTLAND – Ayr police office – 101
IN AN EMERGENCY CONTACT THE POLICE – 999
Lessons from research
Reder and Duncan, in their work on serious case reviews and child death inquiries, identify what they called ‘closed professional systems’ where workers develop fixed views of a case, or where polarisation takes place between two different groups of workers with different views. Sometimes one person’s views are given too much weight, or there can be confusion about who is doing what. It helps to take an objective view of the professional dynamics and check if everyone is clear about their role. See Reder P and Duncan S: Lost Innocents: a follow up study of fatal child abuse (1999).
Newly gathered information is sometimes seen in isolation rather than considered alongside previously known facts. Certain facts are then selected as important, to fit the worker’s view of the family, rather than asking if there could be missing information or other explanations. All the information should be checked and evaluated.