At Acorn we believe that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and aim to ensure we act without delay recognising that the safety of a child, or young person, is paramount.

1. Aim

1.1. Staff and volunteers must never feel inhibited to seek advice and guidance about concerns around the safety or well being of a child or young person. When staff or volunteers identify children and families who are not safe, or who are at risk, they must act early before the situation or the problem becomes worse. To ensure they do not act in isolation, conversations with relevant managers and referring partners must take place and assessments made leading to shared understanding of decisions and actions to be taken, which are clearly communicated to relevant staff, organisations and managers.

The safeguarding of children and young people is a legal requirement and is covered by The Children Act (1989) (2004).

2. Guidance on Making a Referral to Children’s Social Care

2.1.  When we have concerns that a child, young person or adult may be at risk of harm, or not safe, or abused these concerns must be reported immediately to a line manager or deputy.

2.2.  If the usual line manager is not available the concern must be discussed with the Chair or Vice Chair of the Acorn Children’s Club Trustee committee.

2.3.   All safeguarding concerns must be recorded appropriately by the volunteer or staff member, overseen by the club manager.

2.4. Once the manager has ascertained the nature of the incident/ concerns, if identified as a safeguarding issue they should refer this directly to Lewisham Social Care Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 020 8314 9181 or if out of hours call 020 8314 6000 and ask to speak to the Emergency Duty Team (EDT) duty social worker. All referrals should then be followed up with a written referral using Lewisham’s MASH referral form which is available on the Lewisham Social Care Website.

2.5. If you have concerns about the welfare of a child outside of working hours, please contact the Emergency Duty Team on 020 8314 6000 and ask to speak to the out-of-hours duty social worker.

2.6. If the incident occurs and the child or young person is at immediate risk the staff member should contact the police on 999.

2.7. Where possible (age dependent) the child should be advised that you are going to talk to another person about what they have told you.   You should aim to keep the child or young person informed about what steps you will need to take next.

2.8. When it does NOT increase the risk to the child the parent /carer should be informed of the action you will take following the disclosure.   However if this increases the risk to the child or young person or it is an allegation of sexual abuse you should NOT inform parent /carer of your actions.

3. Concerns regarding an adult who is a volunteer, trustee or staff member

3.1.  If there are concerns regarding the actions or behaviour of a member of staff, volunteer member of staff or trustee, in regards to abuse or grooming of a child, the manager should immediately refer the concerns to the Local Area Designated Officer (LADO) who will guide them in regards to the action which they will be required to take. The Lewisham Local Area Designated Officer (LADO) can be contacted on 020 8314 7280.

4. Recording Guidance

4.1. Whenever concerns are raised about a child or young person, whether through an allegation or the observation of a set of circumstances, it is crucial to make and keep an accurate record.

4.2. The following steps should, in every case, be observed:

  • Whenever possible and practical, take notes during any conversation;
  • Explain that the person giving you the information can have access to the records you have made in respect of their own information (age appropriate);
  • Where it is not appropriate to take notes at the time, make a written record as soon as possible afterwards and always before the end of the day;
  • Record the time, date, location, format of information (e.g. letter, telephone call, direct contact) and the persons present when the information was given;
  • Include as much information as possible – but be clear about which information is fact, hearsay or opinion and do not make assumptions or speculate;
  • Include the context and background leading to the disclosure;
  • Pass all original records to the manager.

4.3. All staff and volunteers in Acorn Children’s Club must report concerns they are made aware of about a child or young person who may be at risk of harm or not safe or abused, to a manager or deputy. If their own line manager is not available the concern should be discussed with the Trustee Chair or Vice Chair.

5. Recognising Abuse and Neglect

5.1. Categories of Abuse and Neglect
The abuse or neglect of a child can be caused by inflicting harm or by failing to act to prevent harm being inflicted. Children may be abused in a family, in a community or institutional setting, by those known to them or, much more rarely, by a stranger.

The following definitions are taken from Working Together to Safeguard Children.

They have been included to assist those providing services to children in assessing whether a child may be suffering actual or potential harm.

5.1.1.  Physical Abuse
Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm to a child.

Physical harm may also be caused when a parent, or carer, fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces illness in a child.

5.1.2.  Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is a form of Significant Harm which involves the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development.

It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may include not giving the child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or ‘making fun’ of what they say or how they communicate. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children.

These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying (including cyberbullying) causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children.

Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.

5.1.3. Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is a form of Significant Harm which involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetration (for example rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the Internet).

Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.

5.1.4.  Neglect
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health and development.

Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance misuse.

Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:

> Provide adequate food and clothing, shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment);
> protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger;
> Ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care-givers);
> Ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.

It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.

5.2. Indicators of Significant Harm
The following guidance is intended to help all professionals who come into contact with children. It should not be used as a comprehensive guide, nor does the presence of one or more factors prove that a child has been abused; it may, however, indicate that further enquiries should be made.

The following factors should be taken into account when assessing risks to a child. This is not an exhaustive list.

  • An unexplained delay in seeking treatment that is obviously needed;
  • An unawareness or denial of any injury, pain or loss of function;
  • Incompatible explanations offered or several different explanations given for a child’s illness or injury;
  • A child reacting in a way that is inappropriate to his/her age or development;
  • Reluctance to give information or failure to mention previous known injuries;
  • Frequent attendances at Accident and Emergency Departments or use of different doctors and Accident and Emergency Departments;
  • Frequent presentation of minor injuries (which if ignored could lead to a more serious injury);
  • Unrealistic expectations/constant complaints about the child;
  • Alcohol misuse or other substance misuse;
  • A parents request to remove a child from home or indication of difficulties in coping with the child;
  • Domestic violence;
  • Parental mental ill health;
  • The age of the child and the pressures of caring for a number of children in one household.

5.3. Recognising Physical Abuse

This section provides a guide to professionals of some common injuries found in child abuse. Whilst some injuries may appear insignificant in themselves, repeated minor injuries, especially in very young children, may be symptomatic of physical abuse.

It can sometimes be difficult to recognise whether an injury has been caused accidentally or non-accidentally, but it is vital that all concerned with children are alert to the possibility that an injury may not be accidental, and seek appropriate expert advice. Medical opinion will be required to determine whether an injury has been caused accidentally or not.

5.3.1. Bruising

  • Children can have accidental bruising, but it is often possible to differentiate between accidental and inflicted bruises. It may be necessary to do blood tests to see if the child bruises easily.
  • The following must be considered as non-accidental unless there is evidence or an adequate explanation provided:
    • Any bruising to a pre-crawling or pre-walking baby;
    • Bruising in or around the mouth, particularly in small babies, for example 3 to 4 small round or oval bruises on one side of the face and one on the other, which may indicate force feeding;
    • Two simultaneous bruised eyes, without bruising to the forehead, (rarely accidental, though a single bruised eye can be accidental or abusive);
    • Repeated or multiple bruising on the head or on sites unlikely to be injured accidentally, for example the back, mouth, cheek, ear, stomach, chest, under the arm, neck, genital and rectal areas;
    • Variation in colour possibly indicating injuries caused at different times – it is now recognised in research that it is difficult to age bruises apart from the fact that they may start to go yellow at the edges after 48 hours;
    • The outline of an object used e.g. belt marks, hand prints or a hair brush;
    • Linear bruising at any site, particularly on the buttocks, back or face;
    • Bruising or tears around, or behind, the earlobe/s indicating injury by pulling or twisting;
    • Bruising around the face;
    • Grasp marks to the upper arms, forearms or leg or chest of small children;
    • Petechial haemorrhages (pinpoint blood spots under the skin). These are commonly associated with slapping, smothering/suffocation, strangling and squeezing.

5.3.2. Fractures

Fractures may cause pain, swelling and discolouration over a bone or joint. It is unlikely that a child will have had a fracture without the carers being aware of the child’s distress.

If the child is not using a limb, has pain on movement and/or swelling of the limb, there may be a fracture.

There are grounds for concern if:

  • The history provided is vague, non-existent or inconsistent with the fracture type;
  • There are associated old fractures;
  • Medical attention is sought after a period of delay when the fracture has caused symptoms such as swelling, pain or loss of movement;
  • There is an unexplained fracture in the first year of life;
  • Non mobile children sustain fractures;

Rib fractures are only caused in major trauma such as in a road traffic accident, a severe shaking injury or a direct injury such as a kick.

Skull fractures are uncommon in ordinary falls, i.e. from three feet or less. The injury is usually witnessed, the child will cry and if there is a fracture, there is likely to be swelling on the skull developing over 2 to 3 hours. All fractures of the skull should be taken seriously.

Subdural haematoma is a very worrying injury, seen usually in young children; it may be associated with retinal haemorrhages and fractures particularly skull and rib fractures. The cause is usually a severe shaking injury in association with an impact blow. There may or may not be a fractured skull. The baby may present in the Accident and Emergency Department with sudden difficulty in breathing, sudden collapse, fits or as an unwell baby – drowsy, vomiting and later an enlarging head.

5.3.3. Bite Marks

Bite marks can leave clear impressions of the teeth when seen shortly after the injury has been inflicted. The shape then becomes a more defused ring bruise or oval or crescent shaped. Those over 3cm in diameter are more likely to have been caused by an adult or older child.

A medical/dental opinion, preferably within the first 24 hours, should be sought where there is any doubt over the origin of the bite.

5.3.4. Burns and Scalds

It can be difficult to distinguish between accidental and non-accidental burns and scalds, and will always require experienced medical opinion. Any burn with a clear outline may be suspicious e.g.:

  • Circular burns from cigarettes (but may be friction burns if along the bony protuberance of the spine or impetigo, in which case they will quickly heal with treatment);
  • Linear burns from hot metal rods or electrical fire elements;
  • Burns of uniform depth over a large area;
  • Scalds that have a line indicating immersion or poured liquid (a child getting into hot water of its own accord will struggle to get out and cause splash marks);
  • Old scars indicating previous burns/scalds which did not have appropriate treatment or adequate explanation.

Scalds to the buttocks of a small child, particularly in the absence of burns to the feet, are indicative of dipping into a hot liquid or bath. The following points are also worth remembering:

  • A responsible adult checks the temperature of the bath before the child gets in;
  • A child is unlikely to sit down voluntarily in a hot bath and cannot accidentally scald it’s bottom without also scalding it’s feet;
  • A child getting into hot water of their own accord will struggle to get out and there will be splash marks.

5.4. Recognising Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse may be difficult to recognise, as the signs are usually behavioural rather than physical. The manifestations of emotional abuse might also indicate the presence of other kinds of abuse.

The indicators of emotional abuse are often also associated with other forms of abuse. They may include:

  • Developmental delay;
  • Abnormal attachment between a child and parent/carer, e.g. anxious, indiscriminate or no attachment;
  • Indiscriminate attachment or failure to attach;
  • Aggressive behaviour towards others;
  • A child scapegoated within the family;
  • Frozen watchfulness, particularly in pre-school children;
  • Low self- esteem and lack of confidence;
  • Withdrawn or seen as a ‘loner’ difficulty relating to others.

5.5. Recognising Sexual Abuse

Children of both genders and of all ages may be sexually abused and are frequently scared to say anything due to guilt and/or fear. This is particularly difficult for a child to talk about and full account should be taken of the cultural sensitivities of any individual child / family.

Recognition can be difficult, unless the child discloses and is believed. There may be no physical signs and indications are likely to be emotional / behavioural. Some behavioural indicators associated with this form of abuse are:

  • Inappropriate sexualised conduct;
  • Sexual knowledge inappropriate for the child’s age;
  • Sexually explicit behaviour, play or conversation, inappropriate to the child’s age;
  • Continual and inappropriate or excessive masturbation;
  • Self-harm (including eating disorder), self-mutilation and suicide attempts;
  • Running away from home;
  • Poor concentration and learning problems;
  • Loss of self-esteem;
  • Involvement in child sexual exploitation or indiscriminate choice of sexual partners;
  • An anxious unwillingness to remove clothes for – e.g. sports events (but this may be related to cultural norms or physical difficulties).

Some physical indicators associated with this form of abuse are:

  • Pain or itching in genital area;
  • Recurrent pain on passing urine or faeces;
  • Blood on underclothes;
  • Pregnancy in a younger girl where the identity of the father is not disclosed and/or there is secrecy or vagueness about the identity of the father;
  • Physical symptoms such as injuries to the genital or anal area, bruising to buttocks, abdomen and thighs, sexually transmitted infection, presence of semen on vagina, anus, external genitalia or clothing.

5.6. Recognising Neglect

The growth and development of a child may suffer when the child received insufficient food, love, warmth, care and concern, praise, encouragement and stimulation.

Apart from the child’s neglected appearance, other signs may include:

  • Short stature and underweight;
  • Red/purple mottled skin, particularly on the hands and feet, seen in the winter due to cold;
  • Swollen limbs with sores that are slow to heal, usually associated with cold injury;
  • Recurrent diarrhoea;
  • Abnormal voracious appetite at school or nursery;
  • Dry, sparse hair;
  • A child seen to be listless, apathetic and unresponsive with no apparent medical cause, Unresponsiveness;
  • Indiscrimination in relationships with adults (may be attention seeking).

A clear distinction needs to be made between organic and non-organic failure to thrive. This will always require a medical diagnosis. Non-organic failure to thrive is the term used when a child does not put on weight and grow and there is no underlying medical cause for this.

5.7. Impact of Abuse and Neglect

The sustained abuse or neglect of children physically, emotionally, or sexually can have long-term effects on the child’s health, development and well-being. It can impact significantly on a child’s self-esteem, self-image and on their perception of self and of others. The effects can also extend into adult life and lead to difficulties in forming and sustaining positive and close relationships. In some situations it can affect parenting ability and lead to the perpetration of abuse on others.

In particular, physical abuse can lead directly to neurological damage, as well as physical injuries, disability or at the extreme, death. Harm may be caused to children, both by the abuse itself, and by the abuse taking place in a wider family or institutional context of conflict and aggression. Physical abuse has been linked to aggressive behaviour in children, emotional and behavioural problems and educational difficulties.

Severe neglect of young children is associated with major impairment of growth and intellectual development. Persistent neglect can lead to serious impairment of health and development, and long term difficulties with social functioning, relationship and educational progress. Neglect can also result in extreme cases in death.

Sexual abuse can lead to disturbed behaviour including self-harm, inappropriate sexualised behaviour and adverse effects which may last into adulthood. The severity of impact is believed to increase the longer the abuse continues, the more extensive the abuse and the older the child. A number of features of sexual abuse have also been linked with the severity of impact, including the extent of premeditation, the degree of threat and coercion, sadism and bizarre or unusual elements. A child’s ability to cope with the experience of sexual abuse, once recognised or disclosed, is strengthened by the support of a non-abusive adult or carer who believes the child, helps the child to understand the abuse and is able to offer help and protection.

There is increasing evidence of the adverse long-term consequences for children’s development where they have been subject to sustained emotional abuse. Emotional abuse has an important impact on a developing child’s mental health, behaviour and self-esteem. It can be especially damaging in infancy. Underlying emotional abuse may be as important, if not more so, than other more visible forms of abuse in terms of its impact on the child. Domestic abuse, adult mental health problems and parental substance misuse may be features in families where children are exposed to such abuse.

The context in which the abuse takes place may also be significant. The interaction between a number of different factors can serve to minimise or increase the likelihood or level of significant harm. Relevant factors will include the individual child’s coping and adapting strategies, support from family or social network, the impact and quality of professional interventions and subsequent life events.

5.8. Recognising behaviours related to Radicalisation or exposure to extreme views

There are a number of behaviours which may indicate a child is at risk of being radicalised or exposed to extreme views. These include;

  • Spending increasing time in the company of other suspected extremists.
  • Changing their style of dress or personal appearance to accord with the group.
  • Day-to-day behaviour becoming increasingly centred on an extremist ideology, group or cause.
  • Loss of interest in other friends and activities not associated with the extremist ideology, group or cause.
  • Possession of materials or symbols associated with an extremist cause.
  • Attempts to recruit others to the group/cause.
  • Communications with others that suggests identification with a group, cause or ideology.
  • Using insulting to derogatory names for another group.
  • Increase in prejudice-related incidents committed by that person – these may include;
  • physical or verbal assault
  • provocative behaviour
  • damage to property
  • derogatory name calling
  • possession of prejudice-related materials
  • prejudice related ridicule or name calling
  • inappropriate forms of address
  • refusal to co-operate
  • attempts to recruit to prejudice-related organisations
  • condoning or supporting violence towards others.

All staff undertake Prevent awareness training to equip them to identify children at risk of being drawn into terrorism and to challenge extremist ideas. This provides a foundation on which to develop further knowledge around the risks of radicalisation and the roles involved in supporting those at risk.

5.9. FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is child abuse and a form of violence against women and girls, and therefore should be dealt with in accordance with UK legislation and existing child and adult safeguarding/protection structures. Any concerns regarding female genital mutilation to be reported to Lewisham Children’s Social Care, Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 020 8314 9181.

6. Staff and volunteers

All staff and volunteers including trustee’s chair and vice chair have safeguarding training at least once every three years.

All staff and volunteers who have direct contact with children and young people will be DBS checked every three years to ensure that they are safe to work with children and young people.

Additionally, in accordance with The Department of Education’s Early years foundation stage statutory framework (EYFS): stage (3.11), all staff are expected to disclose any convictions, cautions, court orders, reprimands and warnings that may affect their suitability to work with children (whether received before or during their employment at the setting).

This includes previous convictions or cautions except ones that are protected for the purposes of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. All staff are expected to disclose any of the above as soon as possible.

All staff must notify Acorn of any changes to their circumstances as soon as is reasonably practicable, as laid out in the above criteria, and reconfirm this at their regular one to one supervision meeting.

7. Use of mobile phones and cameras.

Staff’s mobile phones to be locked away whilst caring for children.

Parents to not use their phones whilst on premises or on outings.

Parents to not take photographs of children.

Social Networking Sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.) staff and committee members to NOT post Acorn Children’s Club information or pictures of children who attend Acorns children club on any social networking sites.