The safety and welfare of children - or safeguarding - is everyone's business. Safeguarding means protecting children from physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect. It also means helping children to grow up into confident, healthy and happy adults.
Most children generally enjoy happy childhood experiences within their own family. Unfortunately for some, this is not the case. During difficult family times, everyone who knows the child must do the best they can to keep them safe and protect them from future harm.
The law says that those working with families must try to help children and their families stay together whenever possible. The law also says that children must be kept safe. Gateshead LSCB partner agencies work together to protect the children of Gateshead.
If you have concerns about the safety of a child in Gateshead then you should talk to someone immediately. You can contact Children's Social Care on 0191 433 2653 during office hours or 0191 477 0844 during evenings, weekends or bank holidays.
In an emergency you should contact the police on 999. For non-emergencies you can contact Northumbria Police on 101.
You can also report concerns to the NSPCC by text message on 88858. This service is free and anonymous. The NSPCC aim to respond within three hours.
Worried about reporting a safeguarding issue?
Some people feel anxious about making a referral about a child to social workers. It is always best to get advice and be wrong than do nothing and allow a child to be harmed or further mistreated or abused.
Talking through your concerns can help clarify whether there is something to be worried about. Don't think 'what if I am wrong?' Think, 'what if I am right?'
All concerns are treated seriously and in confidence. Your name will not be given to anyone else without permission.
Find out more if you are worried about a child in Gateshead.
Child abuse is any form of physical, emotional or sexual mistreatment or lack of care that leads to injury or harm.
Types of abuse
When an adult deliberately hurts a child, such as hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, drowning or suffocating.
Where a child is not being looked after properly, for example, not getting enough to eat or being left alone in dangerous situations.
For example calling names, damaging property, stealing, spreading rumours, cyberbullying, hurting, getting people into trouble
This would happen, for instance, when a child is all the time being unfairly blamed for everything, or told they are stupid and made to feel unhappy.
An example of sexual abuse would be where a child has been forced to take part in sexual activities or in the taking of abusive images or photos.
When one adult in a family or relationship threatens, bullies or hurts another family member for example physically, psychologically, emotionally, sexually or financially.
Parental responsibility means all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which a parent has by law in relation to a child. This diminishes as the child acquires sufficient understanding to make his or her own decisions.
Who holds parental responsibility?
A child's mother always holds Parental Responsibility, as does the father if married to the mother. Parental responsibility can be acquired by Court Order, for example a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order. As well as an unmarried father, a step parent or a parents civil partner can apply for a Parental Responsibility Order under section 4 of the Children Act 1989, children's relatives, friends and neighbours who need information or advice.
As parents and carers you have a huge responsibility in keeping your children safe and ensuring their well-being. Sometimes we all need help and advice on the challenges parenting raises. Different issues arise depending on the age of your children.
The internet offers children access to information, communication with their friends and opportunities for exploring the wider world. Children get a lot of benefit from being online. However they should have parental supervision and good advice to make sure their experiences are happy and safe.
Parents and carers need to be aware of problems that can arise, such as bullying and grooming, and know what to do. Here are some useful links that will provide appropriate information to help you in guiding your children.
- BBC webwise
A beginners guide to using the internet with interactive tutorials about all aspects of computer and internet use, getting started on social networks, privacy and safety online.
- Kidsmart - for parents
Kidsmart is an award winning practical internet safety programme website for schools, young people, parents, and agencies, produced by the children's internet charity Childnet International. This link will take you to practical advice and support on how to help your children use the internet and new technology in safe and responsible ways.
- Get safe online
General advice on safe social networking.
- ThinkUKnow - parents section
Advice from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre. Understanding the internet and what the risks are of grooming, mobiles, gaming, social networking and chat.
- bullying UK - advice for parents
The award-winning charity Bullying Online was founded in 1999 by journalist Liz Carnell from Harrogate and her son John, as a direct result of their experience of dealing with school bullying.
Childnet's mission is to work in partnership with others around the world to help make the internet a great and safe place for children.
A booklet for parents on all types of chat from instant messaging and chat rooms to mobile phones.
For more advice on using social networking sites safely, visit the ThinkUKnow website.
Bullies are very cunning and are expert at getting away with it.
We all know that bullying goes on in and out of school. Parents, carers, teachers and other professionals have a duty to take action if they suspect or discover that children are being bullied.
What parents and carers should do
Parents want to be sure that their children are safe from harm at all times and it must be extremely worrying to find out that a child believes they are being bullied. Here is some information which you may find useful and helpful.
Symptoms of bullying which you may notice at home:
- bed wetting, bite marks, bruises, eating disorders, eczema, headaches, insomnia
- pencil jab marks, reluctance to attend school, self harm, scratches, stress
- truancy, tummy aches, vomiting
What you can do If you suspect that your child may be being bullied:
- talk to your child - ask them how they are - if there is anything worrying them
- if they report an incident - write it down
- has this happened before
- it is very important they know that it is not their fault
- if it happened at school - tell your child's teacher
- keep a record
- encourage your child to tell someone straight away
- get advice
- if you suspect or discover your child is being bullied, you should report it to your child's school in the first place - or someone you trust if it happens outside school, for example in a club or online
- if you are concerned about someone else's child, talk to his/her parents/carers;
- some forms of bullying are illegal and should be reported to the police:
- violence or assault
- hate crimes
- repeated harassment or intimidation, for example name calling, threats and abusive phone calls, emails or text messages - if you're reporting cyberbullying, keep a record of the date and time of the calls, emails or texts - don't delete any messages you receive
- Get help and advice
Call 999 if you or someone else is in immediate danger.
Parents/Carers Responsibilities - As well as making sure school are alerted to any concerns you may have, you should also be actively discouraging your child from participating in any behaviour which could be construed as bullying behaviour.
Schools and the law
School staff will deal with bullying in different ways, depending on how serious the bullying is.
They might deal with it in school, for example by disciplining bullies, or they might report it to the police or social services. Any discipline must take account of special educational needs or disabilities that the pupils involved may have.
You can complain about a school if you think it hasn't dealt with your concerns.
By law, all state (not private) schools must have a behaviour policy in place that includes measures to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils. This policy is decided by the school. All teachers, pupils and parents must be told what it is.
Schools must also follow anti-discrimination law. This means staff must act to prevent discrimination, harassment and victimisation within the school. This applies to all schools in England and Wales,
There are lots of organisations that provide support and advice if you're worried about bullying:
- Anti-Bullying Alliance
- Bullying UK
- The Diana Award
- Internet Matters
- The UK Safer Internet Centre
- UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS)
- Bullying at school - the law
Sexual exploitation is a horrific form of sexual abuse that affects thousands of children and young people every year in the UK. It can happen to any young person from any background and affects boys and young men as well as girls and young women.
Many victims of child sexual exploitation have been groomed by an abusing adult, who will befriend them and make them feel special by buying gifts or giving them lots of attention. Victims are targeted both in person and online.
Some young people may be more vulnerable to exploitation. In particular, those having difficulties at home, those truanting or excluded from school, those who regularly go missing from home or care, or those in care.
What are the signs?
Children and young people who are victims of this form of sexual abuse often do not recognise they are being exploited. However, there are a number of signs that could indicate a child is being groomed for sexual exploitation and, as a parent or carer; you have an important role in recognising them and protecting children.
These signs include:
- going missing for periods of time or regularly returning home late
- regularly missing school or not taking part in education
- appearing with unexplained gifts or new possessions
- associating with other young people involved in exploitation
- having older boyfriends and girlfriends
- suffering from sexually transmitted infections
- mood swings or changes in emotional wellbeing
- drug and alcohol misuse
- displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour
What can I do as a parent or carer?
Discussing the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships with children and young people is really important in helping highlight potential risks to them.
There are also practical steps you can take, such as:
- Stay alert to changes in behaviour or any physical signs of abuse, for example bruising
- Be aware of new, unexplained gifts or possessions, for example mobile phones, and carefully monitor any instances of staying out late or not returning home
- Exercise caution around older friends your child may have, or relationships with other young people where there appears to be a power imbalance
- Make sure you understand the risks associated with your child being online and put measures in place to minimise them
Basic awareness training for parents and carers
It is often hard to tell the difference between difficult teenage behaviour and the signs of sexual exploitation. The more information you have about the dangers and risks that children may face the better equipped you'll be to keep them safe.
- Register for this free online course: Keep Them Safe: Protecting Children from Child Sexual Exploitation.
Children and young people run away for a number of reasons and on most occasions they return home safely. If your child is missing or has run away from home, or you are worried about a child or young person who is missing or running away, this information will help you to access support and be aware of what to expect from the agencies available to support you and your child.
If you are worried that your child is missing and you have taken all steps to search for your child, then it is important to report them missing to the Police by calling 101. If you believe that your child is at immediate risk of harm and that for them to go missing is extremely unusual behaviour or out of character, then please contact 999.
When your child returns home
'Safe and well checks' are carried out by the Police as soon as possible after a child reported as missing has been found. Their purpose is to check whether the child has suffered harm, where and with whom they have been, and to give them an opportunity to talk about any offences which may have been committed by or against them.
Where a child goes missing frequently, it may not be practicable for the Police to see them every time they return. In these cases a reasonable decision will be taken in agreement between the police and the child's parent or carer, or their social worker, with regard to the frequency of such checks.
Following a child returning from being absent, a return interview should also be completed within 72 hours of the return of the child.
- if you are worried that your child is missing call 101
- if you believe that your child is at immediate risk of harm contact 999
- Family Lives provides a confidential advice and listening service for parents that provides help and support in all aspects of family life. You can call on 0808 800 2222, email, or have a live online chat with a trained support worker
- NSPCC provides a helpline for adults who are concerned about the safety or welfare of a child 0808 800 5000
- Missing People website publicises cases of missing children. You can explore uploading the details of your child with your local police force.
- Samaritans offer a confidential listening service 08457 909090.
Self-harming is when a young person chooses to inflict pain on themselves in some way. Young people who are self-harming may be cut or burn themselves, bite their nails excessively, develop an eating disorder or take an overdose of tablets. It can also include taking drugs or excessive amounts of alcohol. It is usually a sign that something is wrong.
Young people may self-harm if they are feeling anxious, depressed or stressed or if they are being bullied and feel that they do not have a support network or way to deal with their problems. Young people who self-harm often talk about the 'release' that they feel after they have self-harmed, as they use it as a mechanism to cope with their problems.
Self-harm can be really hard to understand but it is a lot more common than some people think. Between one in 12 and 1 in 15 people self-harm.
YoungMinds provide information on self-harm especially for parents and carers, including links to lots of organisations that can provide help. They also have a free, confidential YoungMinds Parents' Helpline: 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday 9.30am - 4pm. Free for mobiles and landlines)
You've probably already talked to your child about things like crossing the road safely. Talking to them about staying safe from sexual abuse is just as easy with the NSPCC's Underwear Rule campaign.
The campaign is designed to encourage and empower parents of 5 to 11 year olds to talk to their children about keeping safe from sexual abuse. The Underwear Rule is an easy way to teach children that their body belongs to them and to talk to a trusted adult if they ever feel scared or upset.
The aim of the campaign is to reach even more parents to increase their confidence and knowledge in how to broach this tricky subject in an age appropriate way using the Underwear Rule.
NSPCC research shows that the proportion of parents who had spoken to their children about keeping safe from sexual abuse rose significantly from 46%, before the first phase of the campaign last summer, to 64% afterwards. They now want to build on that progress and reach even more parents, giving them the tools to have simple conversations with their children about keeping safe from abuse.
Ensuring that parents and carers teach their children the Underwear Rule, and that keeping safe from abuse - like the Green Cross Code - becomes an integral part of parents' conversations about safety with their children, is vital in the fight against child abuse.
For further information and leaflets that you can download and print please see - NSPCC - Lets Talk PANTS
Over the years a number of tragic accidents have occurred across the country where babies and small children have injured or strangled themselves on internal window blind cords and chains. Young children can very quickly be strangled by loops in pull cords, chains, tapes and inner cords that operate the blinds.
If you have blinds on your internal windows or doors, it is always better to remove them where possible however there are number of safety measures that you can take to reduce the risk of tragic accidents occurring:
- keep chains and cords out of reach of babies and young children
- do not tie cords or chains together and make sure cords or chains do not twist and create a loop
- move beds, cots, high chairs and play pens away from windows covering cords and chains
- move furniture away from windows covering cords and chains, as children love to climb
If you have a window blind which has an operating cord or chain that could form a loop, you must keep it out of the reach of babies and young children and there are a range of safety devices available to help you do this.
When choosing new blinds for homes or places where children or vulnerable people live or visit, always look for a blind that does not contain cords or has concealed cords.
This Blind cord safety leaflet provides advice on how to reduce the risk and keep children safe.
Sadly, during the past three years, across the North East of England, there have been infant deaths attributed to parents co-sleeping with their babies and other causal factors (babies sleeping on the sofa, parental alcohol behaviours).
All of these infant deaths could probably have been prevented through 'Safer Sleeping'. All local safeguarding children boards are actively campaigning to reach practitioners and parents about the potential risks of sleeping with babies. To increase awareness we are promoting the use of the lullaby trust leaflet on 'safer sleeping' to parents and professionals.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby where no cause is found. While SIDS is rare, it can still happen and there are steps parents can take to help reduce the chance of this tragedy occurring.
The Lullaby Trust's safer sleep advice gives simple steps for how you can sleep your baby to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) which is commonly known as cot death. It can give you the peace of mind to enjoy this special time.
If you have any questions about SIDS or safer sleep, please call information line on 0808 802 6869 (lines open Monday-Friday 10am-5pm).