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Taking action when you suspect abuse and/or neglect

There are four key steps to follow to help you to identify and respond appropriately to possible abuse and/or neglect.

Taking action when you suspect abuse and/or neglect

Figure 1 Taking action when you suspect abuse and/or neglect


If a child is in immediate danger or is at risk of harm, you should refer to children’s social care and/or the police. Before doing so, you should try to establish basic facts. However, it will be the role of social workers and the police to investigate cases and make a judgement on whether there should be a statutory intervention and/or a criminal investigation. You should record, in writing, all concerns and discussions about a child’s welfare, the decisions made and the reasons for those decisions.

The list below is intended as a guide and is no means exhaustive. After an EHA, if any of the list is indicated the referral will progress.

  • Any allegation of abuse or neglect or any suspicious injury to a child
  • Allegations or suspicions about a serious injury / sexual abuse to a child
  • Two or more minor injuries in babies or young children (including disabled children)
  • Inconsistent explanations or an admission about a clear non-accidental injury
  • Repeated allegations or reasonable suspicions of non-accidental injury
  • A child being traumatised injured or neglected as a result of domestic violence
  • Repeated allegations involving serious verbal threats and/or emotional abuse
  • Allegations / reasonable suspicions of serious neglect
  • Medical referral of non-organic failure to thrive in under-fives
  • Direct allegation of sexual abuse made by child or abuser’s confession to such abuse
  • Any allegation suggesting connections between sexually abused children in different families or more than one abuser
  • An individual (adult or child) posing a risk to children
  • Any suspicious injury or allegation involving a child subject of a current child protection plan or looked after by a local authority
  • No available parent and child vulnerable to significant harm (e.g. an abandoned baby)
  • Suspicion that a child has suffered or is at risk of significant harm due to fabricated or induced illness
  • Children subject to parental delusions
  • A child at risk of sexual exploitation or trafficking
  • Registered sex offender or convicted violent offender subject to a Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangement (MAPPA) moving into a household with under 18-year olds