Information for parents, families and the wider community about child protection
This factsheet has been produced by the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board to help
anyone who suspects that a child is being abused or harmed.
What is child abuse?
Child abuse takes many forms. Not all have visible, external signs.
Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding,
drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm to a child.
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill-treatment of a child such as to cause severe
and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development.
Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual
activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening.
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical or psychological needs, likely
to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development.
What should I do if I think a child is being harmed?
If you are worried about a child’s welfare, contact Children, Schools and Families (CSF), the
NSPCC or the police and tell them about your concerns. Telephone numbers are at the end
of this factsheet.
Please act promptly. It can be very difficult to investigate concerns if there is a delay
because some signs of abuse disappear quickly.
You may like to discuss your concerns first with someone who works with children and
families, such as a GP, health visitor, social worker, school nurse or teacher. If you are in
any doubt, it is much better to talk to someone who has experience of working with children
who will be able to advise you.
Will I have to give my name?
If you feel very strongly that you cannot give your name, you need not do so – your concerns
for a child will still be investigated. All professionals are expected to give their name.
What happens once I have told Children, Schools and Families (CSF) about my concerns?
The person you speak to will take your concerns very seriously and refer the matter to a
social worker trained in child protection. The social worker will talk to other people who know
the child or family. This may include their doctor, health visitor or a teacher. The social
worker will also talk to the family about the concerns and seek their consent for further
enquiries, unless to do so would place the child at risk.
CSF will send you a written acknowledgement of your concerns. However because of the
confidential nature of this work, you may not hear of the outcome of the investigation.
Does CSF take action on every case?
CSF is required by law to make enquiries regarding all reports of child abuse. If a criminal
offence may have been committed, the investigation may be carried out jointly with the
Depending on the outcome of a visit to the child and the family, either:
• No further action will be taken
• CSF will offer parents advice, help and support
• A child protection conference may be held
What is a child protection conference?
This is a meeting where all the professionals involved meet with the parents or carers to
share concerns and agree on the best way to help the family and protect the child.
If it is agreed that a child is at risk of significant harm, then he or she will become the subject
of a child protection plan. This means that a key worker will be appointed (usually the social
worker) who will work with the parents, the child and other professional to ensure that the
issues are addressed. The local authority is required by law to keep a list of all children with a
child protection plan; it is kept securely and only those professionals who need to know can
make enquiries about any information contained on it.
There will be regular review meetings to ensure that the child and family are getting the help
needed until there are no longer concerns regarding the child. A child protection plan will be
discontinued when the child is considered no longer to be at risk of significant harm and this
can only happen at a review child protection conference.
Parents responsible for their children
The Children Act 1989 states that parents have the primary responsibility for their children’s
development and protection. If a child is, or appears to be, at risk of abuse, all agencies
must work with parents wherever possible.
CSF aims to work in partnership to support families, rather than take responsibility away from
them. A court order to take a child away from its parents should only be requested if this
partnership approach is not adequately protecting the child and he/she is at risk of significant
Could the child be taken away?
It is very rare for a child to be removed from their family. Even when this is the case, the plan
is normally to work towards returning the child home when it is safe to do so.
The decision to remove a child from their family can only be made by a family court. In very
rare emergencies a police officer may place a child in police protection for a limited time.
Is child abuse increasing?
The number of cases reported has increased over recent years because people are more
aware of the problem and people working with children are now better at identifying abuse.
Child abuse and the internet
Internet service providers give parents and carers the ability to have controls on computers,
which enable monitoring of internet use and restrict access to sites that are unsuitable for
Chat rooms are targeted by individuals who may cause harm to children. When using chat
rooms children should be encouraged not to disclose personal information or arrange to meet
any person without being accompanied by a trusted adult.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, please
telephone Children, Schools and Families on 0300 123 4043.
Parents can also contact this number for support if they are feeling stressed about parenting
In an emergency for incidents requiring immediate police response, please call 999
Hertfordshire Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit
A specialist team responsible for child protection investigation.
Telephone: 0845 3300 222 (24 hours)
NSPCC Child Protection helpline
A free 24 hour service providing counselling, information and advice to anyone concerned
about a child at risk of abuse. The experienced helpline staff can make direct contact with
CSF, the police or your local NSPCC team on your behalf if you wish.
Telephone: 0808 800 5000
Provides an independent advocacy service for parents and carers.
Telephone: 01438 740162
01438 317070 (Minicom)
A free advice service for children who are worried about any kind of abuse or problem.
Telephone: 0800 1111
Children, Schools and Families (CSF)
Customer Service Centre: 0300 123 4043
A full copy of Hertfordshire County Council’s child protection procedures are available at
Download the safeguarding Children Leaflet