Why might you be concerned about a child?

Children may not be able to tell anyone if they are being abused. However, there may be signs which make you concerned and may be an indication of a child being abused or neglected.

You may notice one, or a combination of the following; the child or young person may:

  • have unexplained bruising or bruising in an unusual place;
  • appear afraid, quiet or withdrawn;
  • be afraid to go home;
  • appear constantly hungry, tired or untidy;
  • be left unattended or unsupervised;
  • have too much responsibility for their age;
  • be acting in a sexually inappropriate way;
  • be misusing drugs or alcohol;
  • tell you something that sounds as though they have been hurt by someone.


The behaviour of adults may cause you concern if they:

  • are acting in an aggressive, violent or sexual manner towards a child or young person;
  • are misusing drink or drugs while caring for a child;
  • leave their child unattended or with unsuitable adults.
  • These lists are not exhaustive and other things may make you worried about a child or young person.


What to do if you have concerns

 If you see behaviour that is of concern, or if a child or young person tells you something, you need to take them seriously, do something about it, and speak to someone. This could be a teacher, a doctor, a health visitor, a social worker, a police officer or nursery staff.


To ensure a child gets the best possible help:

  • give as much information as you can about the child or young person and their family/carer;
  • describe what it was that you saw or heard and what it was that concerned you;
  • let the person know if there are other things they should be aware of, for example, immediate risks for the child or any other child.


What will happen to the child or young person and their family?

When you contact a professional about your concern, unless the child is in immediate danger, they will make some initial enquiries before taking action. They will check whether the child is known and what information is held. All information will be treated seriously and acted upon. This may lead to immediate action or a more planned response. Following enquiries professionals may, for example:

  • take immediate action to secure the safety of the child;
  • provide support, help or advice to the family;
  • provide a service to the child or family (for example help with childcare) and, where necessary, referral to another agency may be provided;
  • conduct criminal proceedings;