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Responding to Abuse and Neglect


  1. Introduction
  2. The Concept of Significant Harm
  3. Early Help
  4. Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect
  5. Potential Risk of Harm to an Unborn Child
  6. Professional and Agency Response
  7. Hearing and Observing the Child
  8. Parental Consultation
  9. Urgent Medical Attention
  10. Concerns Raised by a Member of the Public
  11. Non-Recent (Historical) Abuse
  12. Adult Services Responsibilities in Relation to Children
  13. Schools and Educational Settings

    Amendments to this Chapter

1. Introduction

These SPB Multi-Agency Child Protection Procedures set out how staff from all agencies and organisations who work to protect children and young people in Jersey and members of the community who may be concerned about the safety or well-being of a child should work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people. The target audience is professionals (including unqualified staff and volunteers) and front-line managers who have particular responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and operational and senior managers in:

  • Agencies responsible for commissioning or providing services to children and their families and to adults who are parents;
  • Agencies with a particular responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.

The purpose of these procedures is to:

  • Promote active multi-agency and inter-disciplinary working and improved communication and liaison;
  • Equip people throughout the island with the confidence to deal with situations involving actual or suspected child abuse;
  • Provide professional and volunteer people with procedures relevant to their work or skill area;
  • Comply with current recommendations and best practice in the protection of children.

Some children, especially the most vulnerable children and those at greatest risk of social exclusion, will need early co-ordinated help from health agencies such as GPs, FNHC, educational establishments, Children's Service, the private, voluntary, community and independent sectors. Some services will be provided as universal services whilst others may be more targeted to meet specific needs, whatever the circumstances of the child or young person:

All agencies and professionals should:

  • Be alert to potential indicators of abuse or neglect;
  • Be alert to the risks which individual abusers, or potential abusers, may pose to children;
  • Share and help to analyse information so that an assessment can be made of the child's needs and circumstances;
  • Contribute to whatever actions are needed to safeguard and promote the child's welfare;
  • Take part in regularly reviewing the outcomes for the child against specific plans;
  • Work co-operatively with parents, unless this is inconsistent with ensuring the child's safety.

These procedures are based on the Working Together to Safeguard Children Statutory Guidance (March 2015), which sets out what should happen in any local area when a child or young person is believed to be in need of support. Effective safeguarding arrangements should aim to meet the following two key principles:

  • Safeguarding is everyone's responsibility: for services to be effective, each individual and organisation should play their full part; and
  • A child-centred approach: for services to be effective, they should be based on a clear understanding of the needs and views of children.

Working Together 2015 defines Safeguarding as:

  • Protecting children from maltreatment;
  • Preventing impairment of children's health or development;
  • Ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care; and
  • Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.

Status of these procedures

The SPB is underpinned by a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the partnership agencies, which establishes how organisations should work with the SPB and detail of commitments and safeguarding standards. The multi-agency procedures are based on best practice guidance from England and Wales and provide a framework for working to protect children in Jersey.

2. The Concept of Significant Harm

Some children are in need because they are suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm. The Children (Jersey) Law 2002 introduced the concept of significant harm as the threshold that justifies compulsory intervention in family life in the best interests of children, and gives statutory agencies such as the Children’s Service and the Police a duty to make enquiries to decide whether they should take action to safeguard or promote the welfare of a child who is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm.

The Children (Jersey) Law 2002 Part 4 enshrines the concept of Significant Harm.

Article 24 (2): The court may only make a care order or supervision order if it is satisfied:

  1. That the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and
  2. That the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to:
    1. The care given to the child, or likely to be given to the child if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give the child; or
    2. The child’s being beyond parental control.

Article 24 (6):

  • 'Harm’ means ill - treatment or the impairment of health or development;
  • 'Development’ means physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development;
  • ‘Health’ means physical or mental health; and
  • ‘Ill treatment’ includes sexual abuse and forms of ill-treatment which are not physical.

There are no absolute criteria on which to rely when judging what constitutes significant harm. Consideration of the severity of ill-treatment may include the degree and the extent of physical harm, the duration and frequency of abuse and neglect, the extent of premeditation, and the presence or degree of threat, coercion, sadism and bizarre or unusual elements.

Each of these elements has been associated with more severe effects on the child, and/or relatively greater difficulty in helping the child overcome the adverse impact of the maltreatment.

Sometimes, a single traumatic event may constitute significant harm (e.g. a violent assault, suffocation or poisoning). More often, significant harm is a compilation of significant events, both acute and longstanding, which interrupt, change or damage the child's physical and psychological development.

Some children live in family and social circumstances where their health and development are neglected. For them, it is the corrosiveness of long-term neglect, emotional, physical or sexual abuse that causes impairment to the extent of constituting significant harm.

In each case, it is necessary to consider any maltreatment alongside the child’s own assessment of his or her safety and welfare, the family’s strengths and supports, as well as an assessment of the likelihood and capacity for change and improvements in parenting and the care of children and young people.

To understand and identify significant harm, it is necessary to consider:

  • The nature of harm, in terms of maltreatment or failure to provide adequate care;
  • The impact on the child’s health and development;
  • The child’s development within the context of their family and wider environment;
  • Any special needs, such as a medical condition, communication impairment or disability, that may affect the child’s development and care within the family;
  • The capacity of parents to meet adequately the child’s needs; and
  • The wider and environmental family context.

The child’s reactions, his or her perceptions, and wishes and feelings should be ascertained and the professionals involved with the child should give them due consideration, so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child’s welfare and having regard to the child’s age and understanding.

To do this depends on communicating effectively with children and young people, including those with communication needs. This may involve using interpreters and drawing upon the expertise of early years workers or those working with children with disabilities. It is necessary to create the right atmosphere when meeting and communicating with children, to help them feel at ease and reduce any pressure from parents, carers or others. Children and young people will need reassurance that they will not be victimised or punished for sharing information or asking for help or protection; this applies to children and young people living in families as well as those in institutional settings, including custody. It is essential that any accounts of adverse experiences coming from them are as accurate and complete as possible. Accuracy is key: without it, effective decisions cannot be made and inaccurate accounts can lead to children remaining unsafe, or to the possibility of wrongful actions being taken that affect children and adults.

3. Early Help

All agencies working within the Safeguarding Partnership Board have a responsibility to address the needs of children and young people in the island. Effective joint working ensures children’s needs can be met across the continuum.

Children and families are supported most effectively and efficiently when services are planned and delivered in a co-ordinated way. The vision for children, young people and their families is to have the right service at the right time to meet identified need and for these services to be delivered and supported by flexible and responsive practitioners.

Services that provide early help are part of the continuum of help and support responding to individual children and family’s needs.

The Continuum of Need provides everyone with clear direction and advice about what to do and how to respond if a child and family appear to need extra help and support. We are determined to put the child at the centre of all we do and expect professionals across the system to ensure the child is at the centre of planning, decision making and service delivery.

The Continuum of Needs policy includes information regarding the criteria, including the level of need, for when a child should be referred to Children’s Services for assessment and for statutory services under Article 42 of the Children (Jersey) Law 2002.

The process for the early help assessment and the type of early help services to be provided can be found at the Jersey Safeguarding Partnership Board website.

4. Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect

The following definitions are based on those identified in Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015:

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child.

Physical harm may also be caused when a parent fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces illness in a child.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent effects on the child's emotional development, and may involve:

  • Conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person;
  • Imposing age or developmentally inappropriate expectations on children. These may include interactions that are beyond the child's developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction;
  • Seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another e.g. where there is domestic violence and abuse;
  • Serious bullying, causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger;
  • Exploiting and corrupting children.

Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (e.g. rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing.

Sexual abuse includes non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, including online and with mobile phones, or in the production of, pornographic materials, watching sexual activities or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet). Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.

In addition; Sexual abuse includes abuse of children through sexual exploitation. Penetrative sex where one of the partners is under the age of 16 is illegal, although prosecution of similar age, partners is not usual. However, where a child is under the age of 13 it is classified as rape.

Child Sexual Exploitation is defined as:

‘Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.’ Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015


Neglect (see Indicators of neglect: missed opportunities - DFE Research Report, 2014) is the persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child's health or development.

Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance misuse, maternal mental ill health or learning difficulties or a cluster of such issues. Where there is domestic abuse and violence towards a carer, the needs of the child may be neglected.

Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent failing to:

  • Provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment);
  • Protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger;
  • Ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care-givers);
  • Ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.

It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child's basic emotional, social and educational needs.

These definitions are used when determining significant harm and children can be affected by combinations of maltreatment and abuse, which can be impacted on by for example domestic violence and abuse in the household or a cluster of problems faced by the adults.

In addition, research analysing Serious Case Reviews has demonstrated a significant prevalence of domestic abuse in the history of families with children who are subject of Child Protection Plans. Children can be affected by seeing, hearing and living with domestic violence and abuse as well as being caught up in any incidents directly, whether to protect someone or as a target. It should also be noted that the age group of 16 and 17 year olds have been found in recent studies to be increasingly affected by domestic violence in their peer relationships.

It should therefore be considered in responding to concerns that the Home Office definition of domestic violence and abuse (2013) is as follows:

"Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence and abuse between those aged 16 or over, who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender and sexuality.

This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological;
  • Physical;
  • Sexual;
  • Financial;
  • Emotional.

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim."

5. Potential Risk of Harm to an Unborn Child

In some circumstances, agencies or individuals are able to anticipate the likelihood of significant harm with regard to an expected baby (e.g. where there is information known about domestic violence, parental substance misuse or mental ill health).

These concerns should be addressed as early as possible before the birth, so that a full assessment can be undertaken and support offered to enable the parent/s (wherever possible) to provide safe care to the baby.

For more information see: Joint Protocol for Multi-Agency Pre-Birth Assessment and Referral Pathway

6. Professional and Agency Response

All professionals, whether paid or voluntary, in all agencies and organisations, where they come in to contact with children and young people, or similarly, all those who work in some way with adults, who may be parents or carers, should:

  • Be alert to potential indicators of abuse or neglect;
  • Be alert to the risks which individual abusers or potential abusers, may pose to children;
  • Be alert to the impact on the child of any concerns of abuse or maltreatment;
  • Be able to gather and analyse information as part of an assessment of the child’s needs.

Each agency must have child protection procedures in place to support and provide information about how and what action to take when there are concerns about a child. Those child protection procedures will include information about how to:

  • Identify potential or actual harm to children;
  • Discuss and record concerns with a first line manager / in supervision;
  • Analyse concerns by completing an assessment;
  • Discuss concerns with the agency's designated safeguarding children advisor (able to offer advice and decide upon the necessity for an enquiry to MASH).

Professionals in all agencies should use their knowledge and agency resources to contact MASH or the Police about their concerns directly (see Reporting Concerns) and to complete the appropriate enquiry form, if there are urgent concerns.

In such circumstances, a formal enquiry to Children’s services, the Police or accident and emergency services (for any urgent medical treatment) must not be delayed by the need for consultation with management or the nominated safeguarding children adviser, or the completion of an assessment.

All professionals in agencies with contact with children and members of their families must notify MASH if there are signs that a child or an unborn baby:

  • Is suffering significant harm through abuse or neglect;
  • Is likely to suffer significant harm in the future.

The timing of an enquiry to MASH should reflect the level of perceived risk of harm, not longer than within one working day of identification or disclosure of harm or risk of harm.

In urgent situations, to raise a concern about the immediate safety or welfare of a child, please call the States of Jersey Police on 01534 612612 who will redirect your call or 999 in an emergency.

During office hours, concerns should be raised by calling the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 01534 519000 or 999 in an emergency.

7. Hearing and Observing the Child

Whenever a child reports that they are suffering or have suffered significant harm through abuse or neglect, or have caused or are causing physical or sexual harm to others, the initial response from all professionals should be to listen carefully to what the child says and to observe the child’s behaviour and circumstances to:

  • Clarify the concerns;
  • Offer re-assurance about how the child will be kept safe;
  • Explain what action will be taken and within what timeframe.

The child must not be pressed for information, led or cross-examined or given false assurances of absolute confidentiality, as this could prejudice Police investigations, especially in cases of sexual abuse.

If the child can understand the significance and consequences of making an enquiry to MASH, they should be told of the need to make that enquiry or whatever immediate action is needed and their views about this taken into account as far as possible and certainly shared with the MASH/Police/Emergency Department as appropriate.

It should be explained to the child that whilst their view will be taken into account, the professional has a responsibility to take whatever action is required to ensure the child's safety and the safety of other children.

8. Parental Consultation

Concerns which have been raised, should, where practicable, be discussed with the parent and agreement sought for an enquiry to MASH unless seeking agreement is likely to place the child at risk of significant harm through delay or from the parent's actions or reactions; for example in circumstances where there are concerns or suspicions that a serious crime such as sexual abuse, domestic violence or induced illness has taken place. If the parents are not in agreement and there are concerns the child may be or is at risk of significant harm then a MASH enquiry must be made with the parents knowledge unless as above it is felt this would raise the risk to the child or others, or prevent the detection of crime.

Where a professional decides not to seek parental permission or make the parents aware before contacting MASH, the decision must be clearly noted in the child's records with reasons, dated and signed and confirmed in MASH records. Professionals should consult with their line manager/designated safeguarding advisor, if at all practicable, for advice.

When an enquiry is deemed to be necessary in the interests of the child, and the parents have been consulted and are not in agreement, the following action should be taken:

  • The reason for proceeding without parental agreement must be recorded;
  • The parent's withholding of permission must form part of the verbal and written record to MASH;
  • The parent should usually be contacted to inform them that, after considering their wishes, an enquiry has been passed to MASH, unless in doing so the risk to the child or others is raised or it may prevent the detection of crime.

A child protection enquiry to MASH from a professional cannot be treated as anonymous and where any court proceedings may follow, whether criminal or family court, the information may be made available.

9. Urgent Medical Attention

If the child is suffering from a serious injury, the professional must seek medical attention immediately from accident and emergency services and Children’s Services and the duty consultant paediatrician at the hospital must be informed.

Where abuse is alleged, suspected or confirmed in a child admitted to hospital, the child must not be discharged until:

  • A MASH enquiry has been made;
  • If the child is visiting the Island the Local Authority in whose area the child normally lives are notified by telephone and followed up in writing that there are child protection concerns;
  • A strategy meeting/discussion has been held, which should then include relevant hospital and other agency professionals, (including off Island if relevant).

10. Concerns Raised by a Member of the Public

When a member of the public telephones or approaches any agency with concerns about the welfare of a child or an unborn baby, the professional who receives the contact should always:

  • Gather relevant information so that a judgement can be made about the seriousness of the concerns;
  • Take basic details:
    1. Name, address, gender and date of birth of child;
    2. Name and contact details for parent/s, educational setting (e.g. nursery, school), primary medical practitioner (e.g. GP practice), professionals providing other services, a lead professional for the child.
  • Discuss the case with their manager and the agency's designated safeguarding children advisor and refer to MASH Enquiries Procedure;
  • Make a record, with the detail of information received and given, separating out fact from opinion as far as possible;
  • Offer the opportunity for a face-to-face meeting or interview to the member of the public to clarify information and offer advice, if needed, unless the potential delay may raise the level of risk to the child.

The member of the public should also be given the number for MASH and encouraged to contact them directly. The agency receiving the initial concern should always pass the concern to MASH and to the lead worker if there is one, in case the member of the public does not follow through (which can happen).

Some people may prefer not to give their name to children’s services, or they may disclose their identity but not wish for it to be revealed to the parent/s of the child concerned. Wherever possible, professionals should respect the enquirers request for anonymity. However professionals should not give enquirer's any guarantees of confidentiality, as there are certain limited circumstances in which the identity of a enquirer may have to be given (e.g. the court arena). Consideration for the enquirers safety may be an issue in some cases.

11. Non-Recent (Historical) Abuse

Non-recent abuse (also known as historical abuse) is an allegation of neglect, physical, sexual or emotional abuse made by or on behalf of someone who is now 18 years or over, relating to an incident which took place when the alleged victim was under 18 years old.

Allegations of child abuse are sometimes made by adults and children many years after the abuse has occurred. There are many reasons for an allegation not being made at the time including fear of reprisals, the degree of control exercised by the abuser, shame or fear that the allegation may not be believed. The person becoming aware that the abuser is being investigated for a similar matter or their suspicions that the abuse is continuing against other children may trigger the allegation.

Reports of historical allegations may be complex as the alleged victims may no longer be living in the situations where the incidents occurred or where the alleged perpetrators are also no longer linked to the setting or employment role. Such cases should be responded to in the same way as any other concerns and the MASH should be followed. It is important to ascertain as a matter of urgency if the alleged perpetrator is still working with, or caring for, children.

Organisational responses to allegations by an adult of abuse experienced as a child must be of as high a standard as a response to current abuse because:

  • There is a significant likelihood that a person who abused a child/ren in the past will have continued and may still be doing so;
  • Criminal prosecutions can still take place despite the fact that the allegations are historical in nature and may have taken place many years ago.
If it comes to light that the historical abuse is part of a wider setting of institutional or organised abuse, the case will be dealt with according to the Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure.

12. Adult Services Responsibilities in Relation to Children

Adult services and professionals working with adults should routinely identify those with parent or carer responsibilities. They should consider the impact of the adult's condition or behaviour on:

  • A child's welfare and development;
  • Family functioning;
  • The adult's parenting capacity.

Where a professional working with adults has concerns about the parent's capacity to care for the child and considers that the child is likely to be harmed or is being harmed, they should immediately refer the child to the Police or MASH, in accordance with their agency's child protection procedures.

Requests for information about a child, which are often made to health professionals such as GPs or specialist services for mental health or substance misuse, by Children’s services should be directed to the correct professional and not dealt with by administrative staff or intermediaries.

Adult Services, whether commissioning or provider organisations, employ safeguarding children professionals to take the lead on safeguarding children matters. The roles and responsibilities of designated and named safeguarding children professionals should be clear and accessible to all staff and made known to partner agencies to assist in the process of sharing information.

13. Schools and Educational Settings

All schools and educational settings in Jersey should make reference to the Education Department Safeguarding and Child Protection policy. This has been developed alongside Keeping Children Safe in Education (September 2016) and Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015.

Safeguarding is everyone’s business and any adult working with children has a responsibility to ensure their safety and wellbeing. If a professional has any concerns about a child/ren they should in the first instance inform the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL). For further information see UK guidance ‘What to do if you are worried a child is being abused: Advice for Practitioners'.

The different schools and education settings for all age groups should have systems in place to promote the welfare of children and a culture of listening to children taking in to account their views and wishes.

Each setting should have a designated professional lead for safeguarding. This role should be clearly set out and supported with a regular training and development program as recommended by SPB.

Arrangements within each school / setting should set out the processes for sharing information with other professionals and the SPB with the aim of safeguarding children.

All school and educational staff members have a responsibility to provide a safe environment in which children can learn and develop.

All school and educational staff members have a responsibility to identify children who may be in need of additional help or who are suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant harm. All staff have a responsibility to take action and work with other services as required.

All school and educational staff members should be aware of the signs of abuse and neglect so that they are able to identify those who may be at risk or suffering actual harm and take appropriate action to protect children.

Any adult working with children and young people need to develop and maintain an attitude of ‘it could happen here’ where safeguarding is concerned and always act in the best interests of the child or young person.

In addition to working with the DSL staff members should be aware that they may be asked to support social workers to take decisions about individual children.

All educational settings must have safer recruitment policies and procedures in place.

Amendments to this Chapter

In April 2018, this chapter was extensively updated in particular new sections were added, Section 3, Early Help, Section 11, Non-Recent (Historical)Abuse and Section 13, Schools and Educational Settings.