Teachers ‘must notice abuse signs’
Tuesday 22nd October 2013, 12:12AM BST.
People who work with children should not rely on youngsters to tell them about abuse or neglect, a new report warns.
It says it is down to teachers, social workers and other professionals to notice the signs and symptoms of mistreatment rather than wait for a child to talk about it.
The study, published by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England, says there is a “significant risk” that if adults wait for a child to tell them about abuse that it will go unchecked.
Children’s Commissioner Dr Maggie Atkinson said too many children are still suffering at the hand of adults and that too many of the adults they come into contact with are failing in their duty to protect them.
The research report looked at whether children and young people can recognise abuse and neglect, and how and where they get help.
It found that children are often not aware that they are being abused until they learn that their experiences are different to other people’s, which usually happens as they get older.
And the most common way that abused children come to their attention of their school, social workers or others is through their behaviour and attitude, rather than because they have explicitly told someone about what is happening to them.
The report also concluded that young people often weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of telling someone about abuse or neglect, and may only do so when they think the situation is unbearable.
It adds that youngsters are often careful about who they talk to, and can worry that their friends will gossip about them, or that it might be too much responsibility to put on a friend.
But teachers and social workers were seen as “particularly important” as people they can tell.
The report warns: “It is important for professionals to notice signs and symptoms of children and young people’s distress at any age and not to rely unduly upon the child or young person to talk about their abuse.
“A significant risk of reliance on verbal telling is that a child’s silence or denial means that abuse is not pursued.”
In her foreword to the report, Dr Atkinson says that children can “all to easily become invisible” and that they must be seen and spoken to if there are concerns about them.
“If children do not talk about abuse, their silence is not a reason to do nothing further. The onus cannot be on them to come forward.”
Dr Atkinson said: “Sadly, far too many children continue to suffer physical and emotional abuse and neglect at the hands of adults and far too many professionals with whom they come into contact, who have a duty to protect them, fail to do so.
“Children often don’t understand they are being abused. If they are old enough to do so, it takes incredible courage for them to overcome the barriers to talk to someone about it, so those with responsibility for protecting them must take heed of the practical advice and recommendations in this report and improve the way they identify and work with children who may be being abused.”
The report comes in the wake of the shocking cases of Hamzah Khan and Daniel Pelka.
Daniel died of a head injury in March last year after a campaign of abuse by his mother Magdelena Luczak and former soldier and stepfather Mariusz Krezolek, both of whom were jailed for a minimum of 30 years for his murder.
Hamzah’s severely malnourished and skeletal remains were discovered almost two years after he died at his mother’s filthy, rubbish-filled home. Amanda Hutton was jailed for 15 years for starving him to death earlier this month.