Everyone has a role to play in protecting children and young people from abuse and neglect, which is why Portsmouth is supporting the Department of Education’s national campaign to tackle child abuse.
Teachers, social workers, health professionals and the police are all well placed to look out for children and young people, but the public has a role to play too. We want Portsmouth residents to be aware of the signs of child abuse, the myths surrounding reporting concerns and who they can talk to.
To spot the signs of child abuse or neglect, look for changes in:
• Appearance – such as frequent unexplained injuries, consistently poor hygiene, matted hair, unexplained gifts, or a parent regularly collecting children from school when drunk
• Behaviour – such as demanding or aggressive behaviour, frequent lateness or absence from school, avoiding their own family, misusing drugs or alcohol, or being constantly tired
• Communication – such as sexual or aggressive language, self-harming, becoming secretive and reluctant to share information or being overly obedient
If someone is concerned about a child, and suspect a child is being abused or neglected, they may not know who to talk to. Research shows that some people prefer to talk to someone such as a partner, family member or friend before making a report – and that’s perfectly fine.
You don’t have to be absolutely certain about whether a child is being abused; if you have a feeling that something’s not right, talk to MASH, the council’s multi agency safeguarding hub, who can look into it. In 2014/15 more than 400,000 children in England were supported because someone noticed they needed help.
Often the public do not report concerns because they are worried about over-reacting, causing damage to the child and family if concerns are unfounded and they will be identified as making a report.
Reporting a concern does not mean a child will be taken away from their family, what it does means is the MASH team can make an assessment and are in a position to offer help to the child and their family.
The team will ask for the details of the person making the call, but as a member of the public they can choose to remain anonymous.
Cllr Neill Young, Portsmouth City Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: “We are backing the Department of Education’s national campaign to tackle abuse because we all have a role to play protecting children and young people.
“No-one takes the decision lightly to report concerns, and fortunately further investigation might result in the team being satisfied there aren’t any child protection worries. However, it makes all the difference where there are cases in which intervention is required and this benefits not only the child or young person, but also their family could get some much needed support too.
“Where cases are more serious this is escalated to the courts and they make the decision about what happens next.
“We’d encourage residents to just be aware about what to look out for and how to report concerns.”
To report a concern contact Portsmouth’s MASH (multi agency safeguarding hub) and discuss your concern with a professional
During office hours (Monday – Friday) 0845 671 0271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Out of office hours emergency duty 0300 555 1373.