What happens after abuse of a child is reported?
Many people are reluctant to report suspected child abuse because they are afraid that the child will be taken away from home. This is not necessarily the case! The priority will be to stop the abuse, keeping the family together where possible. In a small number of cases where it is felt that the child will not be safe, a child may be looked after by a relative or the local authority. Most of these children return home as soon as it is felt that they will be safe.
When abuse or neglect of a child is reported to social work or the police, the following steps will usually be taken:
Investigation: The social work department or the police will first make initial enquiries and decide to either take no action or offer support to the family, or if the referral is serious enough, a formal investigation will begin. This investigation will be carried out jointly by the police and social work if it appears that a crime may have been committed. If the investigation finds that action is required to protect the child, a case conference will then be held.
If at any stage after the reporting of abuse there is a need for urgent action to protect the child from immediate danger, there are procedures for temporarily removing the child from his or her home until investigations are complete.
Case conference: A case conference is a meeting of all the different services who may be involved with the child and may therefore have relevant information. It can include the social worker for the child and family, doctors, teachers, health visitors, the police and nursery staff. The case conference will assess the risk to the child, decide if the child’s name should be placed on the child protection register, and decide on any action that is needed to protect the child. The case conference will also decide whether to refer the child to the Children’s Reporter.
Children’s Reporter: The Children’s Reporter is an independent person who has statutory powers for the protection and well-being of children. When the Children’s Reporter receives information that a child may be in need of ‘compulsory supervision’ (see below), they must make further enquiries in order to decide what to do. They will decide either to take no further action, refer the child to the social work department for voluntary supervision, or refer the child to a children’s hearing.
Children’s Hearing: Children’s hearings are informal tribunals which make decisions about the care, protection and supervision of children based on their best interests. A children’s hearing is made up of trained volunteer members of the public who listen to what the children and his or her parents/carers say and read reports written by social work on the case. Children’s hearings assess all the information about the case and try to come to an agreement between the family and professionals about the best thing for the child. They can make a ‘compulsory supervision requirement’ if necessary – this requirement can be that a child must live in a certain place such as with a relative, in foster care, a children’s home or in secure accommodation. It can also give authority for a child’s liberty to be restricted and can include other conditions such as regulating the child’s contact with a particular person.
(Not for reporting child protection concerns)
Moray Child Protection Committee
The Moray Council, Education and Social Care,
High Street, Elgin