What You Need to Know

Safeguarding and child protection

Every child has the right to grow up in a safe, secure and loving home. It is a sad fact, but many children do not have a home such as this and are suffering or at risk of suffering harm or abuse. This is the case regardless of age, gender religion or ethnicity. The Welsh Government has put in place many important procedures that aim to safeguard and help ensure the well-being and safety (welfare) of all children living in Wales.


What does safeguarding mean?

Safeguarding is:

  • protecting children from abuse and neglect
  • preventing harm to the health or development of children
  • ensuring children are growing up in environments that are safe and effective for their development and well-being.

Safeguarding means that children are able to have a ‘flying start’ in life which will help them enter adulthood successfully.


Is ‘safeguarding’ the same as ‘child protection’?

Child protection is actually a part of safeguarding and promoting welfare. Through the activity of child protection specific children who are suffering or at risk of suffering harm or abuse are protected.


Who should be safeguarding and protecting children?

The Welsh Government sets out specific safeguarding procedures for those who have a duty to safeguard children. The key people and bodies that have a duty to safeguard children include local councils who provide social services, education and housing, the Police, probation services, and the NHS. The third sector also plays a key role.

However, we all share the responsibility for safeguarding children and young people. Every member of the community can help to make sure children are safe and happy. Whether you are a parent, a family member, a friend or a neighbour, an employer or a paid or volunteer worker, you can help.


The role of the family

There is no, one, perfect way to bring up children. All families are different. Parents, carers and families have an essential role to play which, involves caring for children's basic needs, showing them warmth and love and providing the stimulation needed for their development. Children thrive on stability and need guidance and well established boundaries. This can be difficult to achieve and support and help from the wider family, wider community, statutory and voluntary services may be needed.


The role of the authorities

Local authorities have a statutory responsibility to safeguard the welfare of children in their area. Usually, authorities get involved at times of adversity or crisis.  In the great majority of cases, it is the decision of parents when to ask for help and advice on their children's care and upbringing. Only in exceptional cases will there be compulsory intervention in family life: for example, where it is necessary to protect a child from significant harm.
Such intervention should - provided this is consistent with the safety and welfare of the child - support families in making their own plans for the welfare and protection of their children.

Some children have particular needs, because they are disabled, or because they need certain services in order to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development. They, and possibly also their families may need, or benefit from, a range of additional support and services.

Some children may be suffering, or at risk of suffering, significant harm, either as a result of a deliberate act, or of a failure on the part of a parent or carer to act or to provide proper care, or both. These children need to be made safe from harm.


Procedures to protect

The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 sets out arrangements for Safeguarding Children Boards in Wales and identifies those organisations – local authorities, the police and probation services and the NHS – that must work together to protect children within its area who are experiencing, or are at risk of abuse, neglect or other kinds of harm, and to prevent children within its area from becoming at risk of abuse, neglect or other kinds of harm. These organisations make up the 6 Safeguarding Children Boards that operate across Wales – Western Bay, Cwm Taf, Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan, South East Wales, Mid and West Wales and North Wales.

The work of safeguarding children boards is guided by statutory guidance provided by the Welsh Government and the All Wales Child Protection procedures, which were developed on behalf of safeguarding boards.

The procedures reflect the values and principles established in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Welsh Government developed these values and principles and adopted the core aims and outcomes through which it is committed to work with all children and young people. The key outcomes for improving the well being of children from conception to adulthood, includes the requirement that children live in a safe environment and be protected from harm.


Child and adolescent mental health

The mental health of young people is important because when children and young people are mentally healthy they are able to develop psychologically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually and are able to sustain healthy and mutually satisfying personal relationships. Those children who experience mental health problems may experience:

  • educational failure
  • offending behaviour (in trouble with the Police)
  • family problems
  • distress
  • antisocial behaviour
  • long-term effects.

Most children grow up to be well adjusted adults but if you think there may be cause for concern what general things should you be aware of?

You can help your child’s mental health by trying to understand them. It is difficult to be young! Remember that their age, understanding, circumstances and peer group are all important to them. 

Listen to them and show you are listening to what they have to say. Show them it is important to you. When you ask questions use open questions and give then time to answer.

Be consistent. Try to ensure that everyone in the family is clear about family rules and encourage everyone to stick to them. Don’t expect this to be easy. It is very normal for children and young people to push and challenge boundaries.

If there are reasons for concern about the mental health of your child remember there is help available.

Firstly, contact your GP. They can make an initial assessment and then, if necessary refer on to the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). A second strand of approach is through school. You can discuss your concerns with your child’s head of year or pastoral support leader. The school can access the services of an Educational Psychologist who can then refer the child on if there is need.

Primary Mental Health workers are linked to the CAHMS service.  They will assess young people and support them. These professionals can also signpost other support agencies who can help. www.youngminds.org.uk.


In Wales

40% of young people have recognisable risk factors. Between 30–40% may at some time experience a mental health problem, and up to 25% may experience a more severe or persistent mental health disorder.


Recognising children at risk

You may be concerned about a child because they:

  • show distress and despair (e.g. self harm)
  • stay out late
  • misuse drugs and alcohol
  • develop sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • become isolated
  • lack positive and nurturing relationships
  • are excluded from school
  • live in unsuitable accommodation or live independently
  • have multiple callers
  • use the Internet and mobiles in a way that causes concern
  • have disclosed something and then withdrawn.


Child sexual exploitation (CSE)

Child sexual exploitation is a global problem that affects boys and young men as well as girls and young women. It robs children of their childhood and can have very serious long-term impacts on the victims themselves, as well as on their family and friends.

Children who are exploited are victims of serious sexual abuse and must be safeguarded from further harm. It has been shown that it can happen to any child/teenager so it is helpful to be able to spot the warning signs.


What is CSE?

Child sexual exploitation is the coercion or manipulation of children and young people into taking part in sexual activities. It is a form of sexual abuse involving an exchange of some form of payment which can include money, mobile phones  and other items, drugs, alcohol, a place to stay, ‘protection’ or affection. The vulnerability of the child and grooming process employed by perpetrators renders them powerless to recognise the exploitative nature of relationships and unable to give informed consent. CSE Guidance, January 2011, WAG


What are the signs that my child could be the victim of CSE? 

  • Staying out late or not coming home at all.
  • Older boyfriend.
  • Lots of callers (unknown adults).
  • Getting into cars driven by unknown adults.
  • Use of mobile phone that causes concern.
  • A new mobile phone given as a ‘gift’.
  • Unexplained extra money or gifts.
  • Expressions of despair such as self harm, overdose, eating disorder, aggression.
  • Sexually transmitted infections.
  • Drugs misuse.
  • Alcohol misuse.
  • Use of internet that causes concern.
  • Street homelessness or ‘sofa surfing’ that is staying at friends and acquaintances’ houses.
  • Isolation from friends and peers.
  • Unexplained absences from school, lack of interest in schoolwork.
  • secretive about friends and whereabouts.

Be aware that these signs can be indicators of many other circumstances and conditions. If you are concerned seek advice from professionals. Contact the Police if you have serious concerns or your family doctor may be able to advise you and signpost you to agencies who can give you help and support.


If my child is a victim of CSE what will happen?

The Police will use their power under Section 46 of the Children Act to protect the child from significant harm. Social services will be informed and a named Police Officer will deal with the case. Child protection procedures will be put in place.


Do schools have a role in helping to protect children from CSE?

Schools and other education establishments are in an unique position to recognise and refer children who are abused through CSE. They are also in a position to support children and to help to reduce their vulnerability to sexual exploitation. The schools can also provide support to help abused children to recover. 

School staff should be alert to CSE and know how to act if they have concerns. A safeguarding teacher is appointed in every school. This is usually the head teacher in a primary and a deputy or senior teacher in a secondary. They will be specially trained in how to deal with any issue around safeguarding. 

The Personal and Social Education Curriculum provides opportunities to deliver basic safeguarding information and to explore ideas around healthy relationships  and to help children respect their own bodies and understand the risks involved in staying out late and going missing from schools.

In Wales every school has an allocated School Community Police Officer who delivers lessons about safer relationships and is available to help and advise the pupils and staff alike.

Contact your child’s school for advice if you have concerns.