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Where issues of child abuse are suspected these must be immediately reported, when reporting abuse this can be done through a number of channels. It may be that if you are working with children there will be a designated Child Protection Officer whose responsibility is to deal with any issues relating to child protection.

If it becomes apparent that there may be a case with child protection, whether this is by observation or where a child has spoken to you, you are legally obliged to report this. There are a large number of support mechanisms in place. There include:

• The Police - calling the police to report a potential child protection issue is probably the most common procedure followed.

• Social Services - Social Services deal with Child Protection issues on a daily basis and have the processes in place to ensure that the child is protected. Social Services become involved in these cases at some point, even if you decide to highlight the potential issue through another source.

• Child Protection Officer - All schools, hospitals and venues that see a number of children will have a designated Child Protection Officer. This person or persons will have a number of contacts and are required to investigate any potential child protection case.

• The NSPCC - The National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The NSPCC has a number of support helplines which children or adults can use to report potential abuse. They have years of experience in protecting children.

Whichever route you decide to use, make sure that you have;

1. Taken the matter seriously

2. Listened carefully or recorded notes on what you have observed

3. If they have spoken to you try to record the conversation in the child’s words and note the time

4. Sign and date any records that you make

5. Reassured them that they are right to tell and they are not to blame

6. Explain what will happen next and that you have to report this, you cannot promise not to tell

We all hope that you will never need to report a potential case of child abuse but we have to accept that this does happen. Make sure that if it does you are ready and willing to help protect that child and stop the situation from escalating.