What is a child protection enquiry?
If children’s services are told by anyone that a child or young person (from new born babies to those aged 17) in Croydon is at risk of, or actually experiencing, significant harm, the law states that we must make enquiries.
Some people find these enquiries upsetting, but they are the only way to find out whether a child does need protection or services. Sometimes an enquiry shows that there are no reasons to worry or that a family simply needs some advice or support from a professional agency. Occasionally our enquiries show that there are serious problems.
In every case, the staff carrying out the enquiries try to be fair to everyone and as open as possible about what they do and why. Staff will always give top priority to the needs of the child.
If you suspect that a child or young person in Croydon may be being abused or neglected, it is vital you report your concerns so that this can be investigated.
What to do if you are worried about a child
If you think a child is at risk of immediate harm, please contact the Police by dialing 999.
If you believe that urgent action is required, in relation to a child protection matter, phone the Urgent Child Protection Line on 0208 255 2888. This line is for urgent child protection matters only that require a same day intervention from a social worker and you will need to follow this up by sending an electronic referral within three hours after the call.
For urgent calls out of hours (17:00 – 09.00) please contact 0208 726 6400 and ask to speak to the out of hours team. You will be put through to an operator who will take basic information and then pass this on to MASH or our Out of Hours team.
Professionals can contact the MASH consultation line (0208 726 6464) for advice, provided that the case is not allocated to another social worker and the child lives in the Croydon area.
Everyone in the community has a responsibility to protect children, and we encourage any member of the public who thinks that a child is at risk to let us know. Professionals who work with children, e.g. teachers, health visitors and doctors, are expected to report suspected abuse or neglect to us.
How is an enquiry carried out?
Children’s social care staff carry out child protection enquiries. In certain cases, they work together with specially trained police officers. The main aim when an enquiry begins is to decide whether a child is suffering or is likely to suffer ‘significant harm’.
In general terms, a social worker will:
- talk to the person who has said they are worried.
- contact any other professional, eg health visitor or headteacher, who may already know the child and ask them for any background information they might have.
- visit parents at home, sometimes with the police, to explain what the concerns are.
- ask to see the child and any other children living in the house.
- want to see where the child is sleeping in the home, especially very young children.
- if it seems necessary, arrange for the child or children to see a doctor for a medical examination.
We realise that enquiries like these make parents anxious, and staff will carry out their job in as sensitive a way as possible. Professionals know that they must treat as strictly confidential anything they are told by social care staff, and in those cases where a medical opinion is needed, we will suggest a specially trained doctor such as a paediatrician.
In the most serious situations, that involve a child who is old enough to co-operate, we may wish to record a video interview so that there is a very clear record of what the child says. This may be used as evidence in court.
We try to be as open as possible about our enquiries, however our main concern is to do what is best for the child. In some instances, (for example, those involving sexual abuse), we will work with one parent without alerting any other persons suspected of committing the offences.
The person with parental responsibility, is usually given a copy of any initial or core assessment.
What happens if I don’t want to co-operate?
Obviously we prefer to have your co-operation and can be more confident about leaving a child at home when you are working with us to sort out any problems.
During child protection enquiries we do our best to make sure that it is safe for a child to stay at home and very few children actually need to leave their homes.
In a small number of cases where the risk to a child is very serious it may not be possible to keep the family together. In these cases we look for alternatives such as:
A member of the family who is thought to present a risk to the child may be asked to move out to temporary accommodation while we sort matters out.
We may agree with you that friends, relatives or one of our approved foster carers should temporarily look after the child.
Where neither of the above responses is possible or accepted, we may apply to the court for an order to allow us to insist that an adult member of your household leaves or that we can temporarily remove a child.
What happens next?
If the enquiry concludes that a child is not at risk we will:
- tell you and explain why we took the action we did, or
- suggest support services which might help your family.
If the enquiry concludes that a child is or may be suffering significant harm we will:
- arrange a ‘child protection conference’.
In carrying out an enquiry, staff try to:
- keep an open mind.
- be fair to all family members.
- explain fully concerns and any decisions made.
- establish and record your views.
- confirm important decisions in writing.
- share confidential information only with other professionals who need to know it.
- be sensitive to any religious or cultural beliefs within your family and provide an interpreter if this is needed.
There is a procedure for responding to any formal suggestions or complaints about services that have not been sorted out to your satisfaction. This procedure would be the one to use if children’s services had failed to do something that had been promised to you, or if you felt you have not been treated fairly. If you need to use the complaints procedure, please contact the departmental complaints officer.