Bitesize Guides

Disabled children

Disabled children may be particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect  for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Having fewer outside contacts than other children;
  • Receiving intimate personal care possibly from a number of carers which may increase their exposure to abusive behaviour and make it more difficult to set and maintain physical boundaries;
  • Having an impaired capacity to resist or avoid abuse;
  • Being more vulnerable to abuse by their peers and especially vulnerable to bullying;
  • Being inhibited about complaining due to fear of losing services.

In addition to increased risk factors, disabled children may have communication difficulties which make it difficult to tell others what is happening to them.  Adults, including professionals assessing their needs and caring for them may concentrate on the child’s special needs and overlook signs and symptoms which may suggest that the child is being maltreated.  Often, signs indicating maltreatment may be attributed to the disability.

A professional who has a concern for a disabled child must consider:

  • The child’s communication needs and how she/he will communicate effectively with the child;
  • What information in relation to the child’s disability and special needs the professional requires in order to assess risk of abuse;
  • What resources the professional requires in order to undertake an informed assessment;
  • Any specialist advice the professional needs.

Where there is a concern for a disabled child who is already subject to a care plan, for example in receipt of short break care, those professionals assessing the concern and those who are responsible for coordinating and delivering the plan must work closely together to ensure that the child’s needs are met in a holistic way.

Where child protection issues are considered in regard to a child with disabilities, there must be involvement by key professionals who know the child well, including those who have a comprehensive understanding of the child’s disability, method of communication, and any associated medical condition.

Honour based marriage and violence

In forced marriage one, or both, spouses do not consent to the marriage and some element of duress is involved.  Duress includes both physical and emotional pressure.

There is a distinction between a forced marriage and an arranged marriage. The tradition of arranged marriages has operated successfully within many communities and many countries for a very long time.  In arranged marriages, the families of both spouses take a leading role in arranging the marriage but the choice of whether or not to accept the arrangement remains with the young people.

Honour based violence is the term used to describe murders in the name of so-called honour, sometimes called ‘honour killings’. These are murders in which predominantly women are killed for perceived immoral behaviour, which is deemed to have breached the honour code of a family or community, causing shame.

Professionals should respond in a similar way to cases of honour violence as with domestic violence and forced marriage (i.e. in facilitating disclosure, developing individual safety plans, ensuring the child’s safety by according them confidentiality in relation to the rest of the family, completing individual risk assessments etc).

Honour based violence cuts across all cultures and communities. Murders in the name of ‘so-called honour’ are often the culmination of a series of events over a period of time and are planned. There tends to be a degree of premeditation, family conspiracy and a belief that the victim deserved to die. Victims are sometimes persuaded to return to their country of origin under false pretences, when in fact the intention could be to kill them.

Children sometimes truant from school to obtain relief from being policed at home by relatives. They can feel isolated from their family and social networks and become depressed, which can on some occasions lead to self-harm or suicide.

Families may feel shame long after the incident that brought about dishonour occurred, and therefore the risk of harm to a child can persist. This means that the young person’s new boy/girlfriend, baby (if pregnancy caused the family to feel ‘shame’), associates or siblings may be at risk of harm.

When receiving a disclosure from a child, professionals should recognise the seriousness and immediacy of the risk of harm.

For a child to report to any agency that they have fears of honour based violence in respect of themselves or a family member requires a lot of courage, and trust that the professional and agency they disclose to will respond appropriately. Specifically, under no circumstances should the agency allow the child’s family or social network to find out about the disclosure, so as not to put the child at further risk of harm.

Authorities in some countries may support the practice of honour-based violence, and the child may be concerned that other agencies share this view, or that they will be returned to their family. The child may be carrying guilt about their rejection of cultural or family expectations. Furthermore, their immigration status may be dependent on their family, which could be used to dissuade them from seeking assistance.

Where a child discloses fear of honour based violence the professional response should include:

  • Seeing the child immediately in a secure and private place;
  • Seeing the child on their own;
  • Explaining to the child the limits of confidentiality;
  • Asking direct questions to gather enough information to make a referral to Children’s Social Care and the police, including recording the child’s wishes;
  • Encouraging and/or helping the child to complete a personal risk assessment
  • Developing an emergency safety plan with the child;
  • Agreeing a means of discreet future contact with the child;
  • Explaining that a referral to Children’s Social Care and the police will be made
  • Record all discussions and decisions (including rationale if no decision is made to refer to Children’s Social Care).

Professionals should not approach the family or community leaders, share any information with them or attempt any form of mediation. In particular, members of the local community should not be used as interpreters.

All multi-agency discussions should recognise the police responsibility to initiate and undertake a criminal investigation as appropriate.
Multi-agency planning should consider the need for providing suitable safe accommodation for the child, as appropriate.
If a child is taken abroad, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may assist in repatriating them to the UK.


A free e-learning course is available here. The course raises awareness, challenges perceptions and gives information about the correct actions to take should you suspect someone is at risk.

Information about a possible or actual forced marriage may come from the child/young person concerned or a friend or relative.  It may also become apparent in relation to other family issues, such as domestic abuse, self-harm, teenage pregnancy, child abuse or neglect, family conflict or when a child/young person has gone missing.

Any practitioner from any agency who has reason to believe that a child/young person may be at risk of forced marriage, or has been subject to forced marriage, whether or not the child/young person is thought currently to be in this country, should refer to Children’s Social Care or the Police. Check the Concerned about a Child page.

Useful Links

The Forced Marriage Unit provides advice on stopping forced marriages.

Childline has further advice.

Karma Nirvana is an award winning British charity supporting victims for 25 years

Child Helpline International has international phone numbers for getting help.

Intelligence Sharing

CYSCP Intelligence Sharing One Minute Guide


CYSCP Neglect One Minute Guide 

Non-accidental injuries to non-mobile children

All professionals working with children and families should have a knowledge base and action strategy for the assessment and management of children who are not independently mobile and who present with injuries or bruising.

It is acknowledged that identifying abuse is particularly challenging and professional judgement and responsibility must be exercised at all times. Any injury to a child who is not independently mobile should be treated as a matter of enquiry and concern.

Babies and young children can also present with a possible inflicted head or brain injury. These include:

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome
  • Inflicted Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Battered Child Syndrome
  • Inflicted Head Trauma
  • Shaken Impact Syndrome
  • Shaking Injury
  • Whiplash Infant Syndrome
  • Whiplash-shaking injury

The above terms refer to the internal head injuries a baby or young child sustains from being violently shaken or thrown. This can cause a range of serious injuries to a baby or small child, which are often fatal. These injuries are mainly to the head but there may also be injuries to the body. From a medical, social care and judicial perspective, the main interest is the consequence of any non-accidental injuries in terms of treatment, investigation, identifying who may be responsible and safeguarding the child and any siblings from further harm.

Further Information:

Managing Injuries to Non-independently mobile children practice guidance

The ICON - Babies Cry, You Can Cope programme supports parents and carers manage normal infant crying and to prevent abusive head trauma injuries to babies caused by shaking.

Parental mental health

Parental mental illness does not necessarily have an adverse impact on a child’s care and developmental needs, however, studies of  child deaths through abuse or neglect have shown showed clear evidence of parental mental illness in some cases.

Post-natal depression can impact adversely on a mother’s ability to care for a child. The impact of parental mental ill health on the child’s development is linked to the overall parenting capacity and family and environmental factors.

Where any of the following parental risk factors are evident, consideration should be given to whether there is a current concern for the child which needs assessing:

  • Previous or current history of mental health problems;
  • Pre-disposition to or severe post-natal illness;
  • Non-compliance with treatment, reluctance or difficulty in engaging with necessary services and lack of insight into the effects of the illness and impact on the child;
  • Delusional thinking which involves the child;
  • Obsessional compulsive behaviours which involve the child;
  • Self-harming behaviour and suicide attempts;
  • Altered states of consciousness.

The presence of other risk factors such as domestic abuse and parental substance misuse may compound the concerns for the child. Where there is a concern for a child whose parent has a mental health illness it is important to liaise with Adult Mental Health Services in order to:

  • Share information and knowledge on both the child and the parent(s);
  • Establish whether the parent is currently subject to the Care Programme Approach (CPA) and the nature of the mental health concern;
  • Establish the nature of previous mental health problems;
  • Use validated assessment tools;
  • Gain advice and consultation in respect of the needs of the parent with mental health problems.

Adult Mental Health Services use a tool called the ‘PAMIC’ (Potential for the Adult’s Mental Ill Health to Impact on the Child) tool to assess the likelihood and severity of the impact of an adult’s parental mental ill health on a child. It helps with the consideration of the nature of risk but also the protective factors for the child.




Young Carers talk about experiences of their parents' mental health problems



See the Online Training page for details of the PAMIC tool - Impact of Parental /Carer Mental Ill Health on Children online training course.


Parental substance misuse

It is important not to make assumptions about the impact on a child of parental drug and/or alcohol misuse. However, a parent's practical caring skills may be diminished by misuse of drugs and/or alcohol. Some substance misuse may give rise to mental states or behaviour that put children at risk of injury, psychological distress or neglect. Some substance misusing parents may find it difficult to give priority to the needs of their children. Finding money for drugs and/or alcohol may reduce the money available to the household to meet basic needs or may draw families into criminal activities.

Children may be at risk of physical harm if drugs and paraphernalia, e.g. needles, are not kept safely out of reach. Some children have been killed through inadvertent access to drugs, e.g. methadone stored in a fridge. In addition, children may be in danger if they are a passenger in a car whilst a drug/alcohol misusing carer is driving.

The risk will be greater when the adult's substance misuse is chaotic or otherwise out of control. Children are particularly vulnerable when parents are withdrawing from drugs.

The children of substance misusing parents are at increased risk themselves of developing drug and alcohol problems.

Maternal substance misuse in pregnancy can have serious effects on the health and development of the unborn baby.


York Young Person’s Drug & Alcohol Team offer

Support is available for young people in the community or a school, at a mutually convenient place and time. Approach is flexible and based upon reducing the harm drugs & alcohol can cause.  Referrals can be made by the Young People themselves, by family, friends and other professionals.  The only requirement is that the young person is aware the referral is being made and they are willing to meet. All aspects of our service is free to access.

Support may include:

  • 1:1 support for under 18s using substances or for under 18s affected by someone else’s substance use
  • 1:1 support for those 18-21 using substances to support the transition to adult services
  • Drug & Alcohol Education to Schools, Colleges & University
  • Free Professionals drug & Alcohol awareness training

 Please see links to a referral form and poster


Private Fostering

Private fostering rules apply when children and young people are cared for on a full time basis by a person who is not their parent, a person with parental responsibility, or a defined relative (a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of full or half blood or by marriage), or a step-parent. The unmarried partner of a parent is not a “step-parent” for this purpose and will be considered to be a private foster carer.

Private fostering arrangements are those where it is intended for the placement to be of 28 days or more. They are generally made with the agreement of the child’s parent, but this may not necessarily be the case.

Private fostering rules only apply to children under 16 years, or under 18 if they are disabled.

Professionals who come into contact with privately fostered children – such as teachers, religious leaders, doctors and health visitors – are required to tell Children’s Social Care about the private fostering arrangement so that Children’s Social Care can carry out their duty to safeguard the child.

CYSCP Private Fostering page for parents, carers and the public.

Yor-OK website guidance

Email the MASH Team on or phone 01904 551900.


Self harm and suicide

Suicide, suicidal thoughts  and self-harm  are  difficult and sensitive subjects for young people and for those who support them. It is vitally important that a young person who expresses thoughts of suicide or indicates that they may be engaging in self-harmful behaviour, in whatever form that may be, is taken seriously and responded to in a supportive, non-judgemental and compassionate way. Whilst there are strong links between suicidal thoughts and self-harm, particularly medically serious self-harm, and such episodes often relate to similar feelings of distress or other psychological pain, they can often be entirely unrelated. Someone who engages in self-injurious behaviour may never have thoughts of suicide or attempt to take their own life and some people who die by suicide have never previously self-injured. Every case, just like every child and young person is unique. However research shows a strong link between the two and it’s important for carers to know that previous self-harm and attempts at suicide are a strong risk factors in relation to suicide.

The City of York Self-harm and Suicidal Behaviour booklet is intended for use by practitioners working in a wide range of settings such as schools and youth or community groups.  

If you are worried about a young person then it is important not to dismiss your concerns or to feel that it’s not your place to offer support. The safety, even the life of a young person may be at risk and an open, frank and compassionate conversation with that person is the only way to know for sure if that is the case. If you don’t feel able to have that conversation yourself, for whatever reason then you should discuss your concerns with your concerns with a medical professional , The School Wellbeing Service, your organisation’s safeguarding lead or the young person’s parents( regardless of how that may be received). If you have immediate concerns for the safety of a young person then it is appropriate to contact the emergency services as a matter of urgency.

Suggested sources of support:

CAMSH single point of access


York Hospital A and E




PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide Hopeline UK offers support to young people under 35 at risk of suicide and call-takers are able to advise parents, carers or anyone else who is worried about a young person - tel 0800 0684141(not 24 hours)

Young Minds




The Haven @ Clarence Street York (over 16)

Live Well York contains many useful links to mental health resources

If you are a young person and you are having thoughts of suicide it is so important that you tell someone who you trust so that they can help you to overcome those feelings which you may be finding overwhelming. If you don’t know who to talk to then call PAPYRUS  


Trafficking and the NRM


If any suspicions are raised that a child or young person is being trafficked, or at risk of this, immediate action to safeguard the child or young person is required. This includes urgent liaison with the police.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 establishes that a person commits an offence if the person arranges or facilitates the travel of another with a view to being exploited, this involves cases where:

  • the person intends to exploit the person being trafficked (in any part of the world) during or after the travel, or
  • the person knows or ought to know that another person is likely to exploit the person being trafficked (in any part of the world) during or after the travel.

A child should be considered a victim of trafficking if they have been recruited, transported or transferred for the purpose of exploitation, either in an attempt to enter the country, or within the UK. They should also be considered a victim whether or not they have been forced, deceived or they believe that they are traveling willingly from one location to another, for example, where a child takes a bus or walks from one location to another for the purpose of exploitation.

A child cannot legally give consent to being trafficked.

Any agency and organisation that has concern for a child they believe may be a victim of trafficking should made a referral immediately to the York MASH and notify the police. This is to ensure that arrangements can be put in place to safeguard the child or young person and the police are made aware that a potential crime has been committed. When age is in doubt, the presumption has to be that the person is a child.

When the MASH Team and the Police have assessed the indicators of trafficking and arrangements have been put in place to safeguard the child, they should refer the child to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) using the NRM Referral Form.

Further information can be found on the Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation page

Trusted Relationship Project

A multi-agency collaborative approach to identification and support for children and young people who are primarily at risk of or subject to Child Criminal Exploitation, including County Lines, Child Sexual Exploitation and Modern Slavery.

OMG Child Exploitation Trusted Relationships Project

Unborn babies

Circumstances when there may be safeguarding concerns about an unborn baby might include:

  • Concerns regarding the mother’s ability to protect the child.
  • Where alcohol or substance abuse is thought to be affecting the health of the expected baby, and is one concern amongst others;
  • Where the expectant parent(s) are very young and a dual assessment of their own needs as well as their ability to meet the baby’s needs is required;
  • Where a previous child in the family has been removed because they have suffered harm or been at risk of significant harm;
  • Where a person who has been convicted of an offence against a child, or is believed by child protection professionals to have abused a child, has joined the family;
  • Where there are acute professional concerns regarding parenting capacity, particularly where the parents have either severe mental health problems or learning disabilities;
  • Where the child is believed to be at risk of significant harm due to domestic violence

If a practitioner has concerns about an unborn baby, wherever possible, the practitioner should share their concerns with the prospective parent(s) unless this action may place the unborn child, or someone else, at risk. 
In any of the above circumstances, or where there are other factors which meet the criteria for safeguarding concern, the practitioner must discuss this with their organisation’s safeguarding lead and with Children’s Social Care.

The Safeguarding Unborn Babies - Pre Birth Guidance can be found on the CYSCP Practice Guidance page. 

Writing a Safeguarding Policy

It can be difficult to know where to start when you sit down to write a child protection safeguarding policy. 

  • What should you put in (or leave out)?


  • What's the difference between a policy and a procedure?


  • What do we have to do if an allegation is made against a member of staff?

Guidance is available here:  NSPCC - Writing a Safeguarding Policy