If an allegation is made against a child
This procedure sets out what to do if an allegation of abuse is made against another child.
If a child is in immediate danger or needs emergency medical attention, call the emergency services and stay with the child until they arrive. Speak to the emergency services about whether it is appropriate to contact the child’s parents. Contact YAC HQ to let them know what is happening. Ask to speak to Mike Heyworth on 01904 671 417. If it’s out of office hours then call Mike on 07793 817 510.
Child protection or bullying?
When faced with a situation of one child behaving inappropriately towards another, it can be difficult to ascertain whether the problem behaviour constitutes bullying or a child protection issue. If you have any concerns, please speak to your YAC Leader and contact Mike at YAC HQ to discuss it. If you prefer, you can speak to the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000. You may find this checklist useful to guide your thinking:
- The difference of power between the bully and the person being bullied is relatively small.
- The bullying behaviour may be from a number of children acting in a group rather than one child acting alone. It may also, but not necessarily, be directed towards a group of children rather than an individual child.
- It may involve teasing or making fun of someone, excluding them from games and conversations, pressuring other children not to be friends with someone, spreading hurtful rumours or circulating inappropriate photographs/images/drawings, cyberbullying, shouting at or verbally abusing someone, stealing someone’s possessions, making threats, or harassment on the basis of race, gender, sexuality or disability.
- The behaviour has not previously been a cause for concern and the bully or bullies may have been responding to group pressure.
- The behaviour is perceived as bullying by the victim.
Child protection concerns
- The difference of power between the child who is abusing and the person being abused is significant, e.g. there is an age difference of more than two years, there is a significant difference in terms of size or ability, the abuser holds a position of power (such as being a volunteer) or the victim is significantly more vulnerable than the other child.
- The behaviour involves sexual assault or physical assault (other than the most minor physical assault).
- The victim may have suffered significant harm.
- The behaviour may not necessarily be perceived by the victim as abusive, particularly if it is sexual in nature.
- The behaviour is not a one-off incident and is part of a pattern of concerning behaviour on the part of the child who is abusing.
- The behaviour, if sexual, is not part of normal experimentation that takes place between children.
Sexual abuse or normal experimentation?
All children develop an interest in their own sexuality from a young age, and seek to learn about sex from their peers. It is important not to label normal, healthy behaviour as deviant or abusive. It is equally important not to allow sexually abusive behaviour being perpetrated by one child towards another to go unchecked, as this is harmful for both the victim and the perpetrator.
There are ways of assessing whether sexual behaviour between children is abusive or not. Indicators of abusive behaviour include:
- There is a significant difference in age, dominance or understanding between the children.
- The behaviour was accompanied by the use of threats or bribes.
- The behaviour was carried out in secret.
For the purpose of this procedure however, it is enough to say that if there is any question that the behaviour could be abusive, the matter should be discussed with your YAC Leader, with Mike at YAC HQ, or with the NSPCC Helpline.
If you have concerns about a child:
- Make a note of your concerns or of what you have been told. There is a Referral Form in the Paperwork section of the Leaders’ Area which you can use. However you record your concerns, make sure that you sign and date them.
- Telephone Mike on the numbers above to talk it through and get advice on the next steps. Remember that it is not your responsibility to investigate any possible case of child abuse. Following your discussions, Mike will decide whether the concern needs to be referred to the relevant local statutory authorities (for example, the police). If they decide that is the case, they will do so within 24 hours. They will keep you informed of this process.
What should I say to a child who tells me they or another child is being abused?
Children very rarely make up allegations of abuse. If a child tells you that they or another child is being abused, you must take the information at face value, and you must pass it on.
- Reassure the child that they have done the right thing by telling someone.
- Tell them that now you have to do what you can to keep them (or the child who is the subject of the allegation) safe.
- Let them know what you are going to do next and who else needs to know about it.
- Let them tell their whole story. Don’t try to investigate or quiz the child, but make sure you are clear as to what they are saying.
- Check what the child would like to happen as a result of what they have said, but don’t make or imply any promises you can’t keep.
- Give the child the ChildLine telephone number 0800 11 11.
- If possible, explain to the child’s parent/carer what has happened. Do this first without the child there, then summarise it again in front of the child so that it is an open subject between them.
What should I say to a child who says that s/he has abused another child?
- Reassure the child that s/he has done the right thing by telling someone about it.
- Tell her/him that you now have to do what you can to keep her/him and the child who has been abused safe.
- Let the child know what you are going to do next and who else needs to know about it.
- Let the child tell his/her whole story. Don’t try to investigate or quiz the child, but make sure you are clear as to what s/he is saying.
- If there is no risk to the child from their parent/carer, then explain to the parent/carer what has happened. Do this firstly without the child there, then summarise it again in front of the child so that is an open subject between the parent/carer and child. This may enable them to talk about it together more easily.
- Check out what the child expects to happen as a result as what s/he has said. Offer reassurance where appropriate but don’t make or imply promises you can’t keep.
- Reassure the child that, with help, the problem can be sorted out and that what has happened does not make her/him an abuser for life.
- Give the child the ChildLine phone number (0800 11 11).
- Remember that the child who has behaved in this way is a child in need of support.
This guidance is taken from the Council for British Archaeology’s Child protection policy and procedures. For more information contact YAC HQ on firstname.lastname@example.org.