2.1 Children and Young People
This Chapter covers responding to concerns, observations or allegations in relation to Children and Young People.
It does not cover concerns or allegations relating to people in a position of trust (e.g. an adult acting in some capacity within any parish, congregation or other setting within the Catholic Church in England and Wales). For relevant procedures see People in a Position of Trust Procedure.
Quick Reference Flowchart
Concerns and allegations about a child being at risk of some form of Significant Harm can come to the notice of an adult within the church in many different ways.
It may be an observation of a change in a child or a pattern of concerns over time; it may be that a child tells an adult something about themselves or often one child tells an adult about another child; sometimes it will be the parents of another child who has been told by their own child.
If, as a result of the information, there is a concern that a child may have suffered or be at risk of suffering Significant Harm, a referral to Children's Social Care Services or the Police must be made.
Whatever the source of the information, the adult receiving the information needs to observe some basic rules when responding to the information they are being given:
- Listen to the information and acknowledge what you hear without passing judgement or minimising the information;
- Do not put words into the person or child's mouth or make judgemental statements about any person;
- Take into account the person or child's age and level of understanding, their culture and use of language;
- Do not interrogate the child or person but be calm and reassuring;
- Do not make promises you cannot keep e.g. not to tell anyone else;
- Whether it is a child or an adult, be clear about what you are going to do next and when;
- Tell them who you will need to contact i.e. the Safeguarding Representative or Safeguarding Coordinator;
- Do not promise total confidentiality but explain that the information will be treated with great care and, where necessary to safeguard the child, the information may be shared appropriately between specific adults trained to deal with safeguarding children matters - see Information Sharing Policy and Confidentiality Policy;
- Make careful notes, using the form provided if possible, as soon as you can and include dates, times of the incident and when the recording was made, who was present and sign the notes. Also make sure the form or notes are kept securely - see: Section 3, Recording;
- Contact the Safeguarding Representative or Safeguarding Coordinator as soon as possible to inform and consult them about the need for action, including the need to make a referral to Children's Social Care Services or the Police, which may lead to a Strategy Discussion;
- If none of the above is available, it is possible to consult Children's Social Care Services or the Police directly without giving personal details of the child. The advice given may be that a referral must be made in which case you must do so immediately - see Section 2, Referring;
- Provide the child or adult with some means to contact you and be clear about how and when you will contact them to feed back what will happen next;
- Never leave a child to wait to hear from someone, e.g. a Police officer or social worker, without any idea of timescale or place;
- Do not contact the adult about whom the allegation or concerns are being raised to tell them about the information, you could be putting a child or other adult in serious danger, e.g. where there is domestic violence taking place, and/or prejudice any form of investigation.
Concerns about a person in a position of trust
Where the concerns or allegation are about another adult in a position of trust within the church, do not inform the person in question as you might prejudice any police investigations, always contact the Safeguarding Representative or Safeguarding Coordinator immediately. Where the allegation concerns the person you would usually refer to, the next available Safeguarding Coordinator should be contacted.
Advice can also be sought from CSAS. See Section 4, Assessing Risks and Taking Action of the People in a Position of Trust Procedure.
In some circumstances there may be immediate concerns about the child's safety arising from the information or the child might be afraid to go home. The Safeguarding Representative or in their absence the Safeguarding Coordinator should be contacted and, where necessary, they will make the referral to the local Children's Social Care Services or the Police - see Section 2, Referring.
If none of them can be contacted, the adult present must take any immediate action necessary to safeguard the child, including contacting the local Children's Social Care Services or the Police themselves and explain the circumstances and provide the information they have received or observed.
The Safeguarding Coordinator will need to be informed as soon as possible subsequently in order to liaise with the Children's Social Care Services and the Police.
The Safeguarding Commission in each Diocese meets regularly and acts in an advisory capacity to the Bishop in all matters relating to the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults. The Safeguarding Coordinator is responsible for collating and monitoring data relating to referrals and reporting to the Safeguarding Commission.
When the decision has been made, after consultation with the Safeguarding Coordinator or by the Safeguarding Representative or recipient of the information in the case of an emergency, to make a referral to Children's Social Care Services or the Police, the following steps need to be taken.
The referral will be made in office hours to the local Children's Social Care Services.
Outside office hours, the referral should be made to the Emergency Duty Services or the Police. Contact details will usually be available in the Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures.
The duty social worker in Children's Social Care Services will expect to receive and should be given the following information:
- The name, date of birth and address of the child who is the subject of concern;
- The names of the parents or carers;
- Any other children in the same household;
- Details of the concern, incident or allegation;
- Time and context of the disclosure, if any;
- Any information known about the adult whom the concerns or allegations are about;
- Is the adult aware of the referral?
- Are there any other children who may be at risk?
- What has the child been told about the referral?
- The name and contact details of the referrer.
It is useful to have the information at hand when making the referral but there must not be a delay if some of the information is not available; the child's safety must be the priority.
If the referral is made directly to the Police or the Emergency Duty Services, the same information must be given as it will enable the Police/Emergency Services to assess the risks and determine what action to take in the child's interest.
The Police and Children's Social Care Services have a duty to liaise with each other promptly and work together in all cases involving children at risk of Significant Harm.
The information the duty worker at Children's Social Care Services, Emergency Duty Services or the Police Officer should provide the referrer with:
- Their name and contact numbers;
- What action they intend to take;
- When they are likely to take that action;
- Advice on what the referrer should say to the child;
- Advice on what the referrer should do next if anything;
- A timescale for feeding back to the referrer an outcome of any intervention bearing in mind that for reasons of confidentiality the referrer may not be able to be given all details.
Once the referral has been made through a telephone call or direct contact, the referrer will be asked to forward the referral in writing.
When a referral to the statutory agencies is made by the Safeguarding Representative in the first instance he/she must inform the Safeguarding Coordinator for the Diocese or Religious Congregation by noon the next working day and pass on all information to them in writing as soon as practicable.
The written referral must be made on the available form, see Forms Library, and all additional notes must be passed on by the referrer to the Safeguarding Coordinator by noon the next working day.
The Safeguarding Coordinator will send the written referral to Children's Social Care Services within 48 hours. The Children's Social Care Services should acknowledge the referral in writing within 3 working days.
An adult who provides information should be encouraged to share that information with the statutory agencies, where appropriate.
They should be offered support by the Safeguarding Representative to do so.
If the adult or child providing information about another child request anonymity when the Safeguarding Coordinator makes the referral to Children's Social Care Services or the Police, those agencies will respect their wishes as far as possible. However, where investigations proceed to Court this may not be possible to maintain at all times.
An adult in an official or lay position of trust within the Church cannot expect to remain anonymous when a referral is made.
(NB: for allegations concerning people in positions of trust see also the Whistle Blowing Procedure.)
Whenever concerns are raised about a child, whether through an allegation or the observation of a set of circumstances, it is crucial to make and keep an accurate written record.
All records must be kept in a confidential and secure place and must only be shared, in order to safeguard a child, with the Safeguarding Representative or the Safeguarding Coordinator or a professional from the Children's Social Care Services or the Police - see Information Sharing Procedure and Confidentiality Policy.
There is a form in the Forms Library (R Alleg 1: Safeguarding Children, Young People and Adults) for such recording to be made but this may not always be available in which case notes can be taken and the form can be filled in at a later stage.
The following steps should be observed:
- Whenever possible and practical, take notes during any conversation;
- Ask permission to do this and explain the importance of recording information;
- Explain that the person giving you the information can have access to the records you have made in respect of their own information;
- Where it is not appropriate to take notes at the time, make a written record as soon as possible afterwards and always before the end of the day;
- Record the time, date, location, format of information (e.g. letter, telephone call, direct contact) and the persons present when the information was given;
- The record must always be signed and dated by the person making the record;
- Include as much information as possible but be clear about which information is fact, hearsay, opinion and do not make assumptions or speculate;
- Include the context and background leading to the Disclosure;
- Maintain a log of actions on the Form: Safeguarding Children, Young People and Adults (See Forms Library) and record times, dates and names of people contacted and spoken to as well as their contact details;
- Include full details of referrals to the Children's Social Care Services and the Police;
- Pass all original records, including rough notes, by noon the next working day to the Safeguarding Coordinator responsible for the Diocese or Religious Congregation.
The Safeguarding Coordinator will create a Safeguarding Case File which will be kept securely and will contain all records, logs, events and information relating to the particular child or adult as appropriate.
Where any meetings or discussions are held with the Bishop, Congregation Leader or other Manager about a particular child or adult, the Safeguarding Coordinator will take minutes. The minutes will then be shared with those present within 14 days and any discrepancies clarified. An agreed record will then be placed on the Safeguarding Case File.
Where a referral is made to the statutory agencies, it will be followed up in writing by the Safeguarding Coordinator using the Local Safeguarding Children Boards Multi Agency Referral Form or the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) Referral form used by the relevant Children's Social Care Services. A copy of the form sent must be kept on the relevant case file.
Where a Safeguarding Coordinator attends any meetings held by the statutory agencies such as a Strategy Meeting, Family Group Conference or Child Protection Conference, any reports or minutes of meetings must be kept securely on the Safeguarding Case File.
Clarification should be provided to the subject of the Safeguarding Case File of how they can have access to the information held on the file and the timescale for destruction of the information once the circumstances of the case have been concluded.
A record must be kept of all actions agreed with the Diocesan or Congregational Insurers and must be placed on the Safeguarding case file. The Trustees must consider whether any particular incident should be reported to the Diocesan or Congregational Insurers and/or to the Charity Commission. Records of any report made to insurers and/or the Charity Commission must be retained.