New research from the Department of Education shows that a third of people who suspect child abuse do nothing for fear that they might be wrong, but as a mum myself*, I feel you should listen to your gut and report it if you think something is wrong.
I reported a large family in the house opposite me in Manchester – there were six or seven children living there – after feeling that something wasn’t right, and I’ve never regretted it.
It was their appearance that concerned me, the child was extremely dirty and unkempt
I’m not often at home due to work and other commitments but I’d noticed this family as there was a lot of shouting and the parents were often shouting at the children.
On one occasion a parcel I was expecting had been left at the family’s property. The property did look unkempt from the outside, but this could have been for a number of reasons. However when the mother opened the door, what I saw inside alerted my suspicions.
Once the door was opened there was a very strong unpleasant smell coming from the house. A very young child, less than three years old, also came to the door. It was their appearance that concerned me, the child was extremely dirty and unkempt. Obviously many children get dirty, as a parent I know this myself, but this child was extremely dirty as were their clothes – it was ingrained.
My gut instinct told me I had to repot what I had seen
This happened on a Friday, I was really troubled by what I had seen, and I was concerned the children were neglected. Over the weekend I shared my concerns by speaking to my partner about it, who wasn’t sure I should get involved, but my gut instinct told me I had to report what I had seen.
I don’t know if anyone else in the neighbourhood had noticed that something wasn’t quite right or reported what they had seen but I am glad I did. On the Monday I made an anonymous report to my local children’s social care team. I couldn’t live with myself if I had ignored it, I felt better once I had shared my concerns with a professional.
* Account from Lisa, a mum from Manchester
How to spot the signs of child abuse and neglect
The Department for Education has recently launched a new campaign ‘Together, we can tackle child abuse’ to encourage people to report it if they suspect a child is being abused or neglected.
The campaign highlights the role that everyone has to play in helping to protect children and the right of all children to feel safe and protected.
A third of people who suspect child abuse do not act on their suspicions because they’re worried about being wrong, but in 2014/15, more than 400,000 children in England were supported because someone noticed they needed help. If you think a child is being abused or you think their safety is at risk, then it is important to tell someone.
To spot the signs of child abuse or neglect look for changes in:
Frequent unexplained injuries, consistently poor hygiene, unexplained gifts, or a parent regularly collecting children from school when drunk.
Such as demanding or aggressive behaviour, frequent lateness or absence from school, avoiding their own family, misusing drugs or alcohol, or being constantly tired.
Such as sexual or aggressive language, self-harming, becoming secretive and reluctant to share information or being overly obedient.
If you suspect child abuse or neglect visit gov.uk/reportchildabuse to get the number for your local authority.