Summer time and the living is hard…

Posted on: 30 July 2018

For most children the school holidays are a time they look forward to, with weeks off school playing with friends, outings with parents and time to make memories together.

Unfortunately for others it is a time when they are at their most vulnerable to abuse or neglect, particularly as they are away from school for six weeks without the support network of teachers and other staff around them.

With the school summer holidays underway, residents are being urged to help protect children and young people by being more alert to spot signs of child abuse and neglect and acting on their suspicions by reporting any concerns.

A national campaign, which is being run by the Department for Education and supported by the Devon Children & Families Partnership, aims to raise public awareness of the wider issue of child abuse and tackle the barriers that stop people reporting it.

They say that too few people act on their suspicions because they’re worried about being wrong, fearing that they’ve misread the signs and possibly misunderstood a situation, and that their concerns could be unfounded. People are also worried about repercussions should their reporting of a situation become publicly known.

But the advice to everyone is that you don’t need to be absolutely certain of what you’ve seen or heard to seek advice or help. You can speak to any professional you come into contact with, such as a teacher, GP or Health Visitor, for advice and report your concerns anonymously to Devon County Council, the NSPCC or the police who can provide the support a child may need.

Jo Olson is Chair of the Devon’s multi-agency Children and Families Partnership Executive – a partnership whose members include Devon County Council, the NHS and Devon and Cornwall Police.  She says:

“All children have a right to be safe and should be protected from abuse and neglect, and we all have a role to play in making sure this happens.

“However, many people do not act because they don’t recognise the signs or are worried about being wrong.

“During the long school summer holidays children and young people can become isolated from the wider community and support network, and problems can be magnified.

“Your support is very important because it’s often those who have contact with children and young people every day, maybe in the park or at the beach, or with the families who live on your street, who are able to spot signs of abuse and neglect.

“If you’re worried, don’t stand back. Please raise your concerns with us, anonymously if you prefer. Your information could provide the missing piece that is needed to keep a child safe.

“Last year nearly 400,000 children in England were supported because someone noticed they needed help. So, if you see signs of abuse or neglect, report it and together we can tackle child abuse.”

Possible signs of abuse or neglect to look out for include:

  • Appearance: such as unusual injuries or consistently poor hygiene.
  • Behaviour: such as being withdrawn, overly anxious, disruptive or self-harming or any other sudden changes in behaviour.
  • Communication: such as talking aggressively, using sexual language or becoming secretive.

The advice to anyone in Devon who may have suspicions of child abuse or neglect is to contact Devon’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 0345 155 1071.

For more information about child abuse and neglect, including how to spot it and report it, visit the Devon Children & Families Partnership website.

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