Members of staff (paid and unpaid) have a duty to report any suspicions, allegations or disclosures to the person responsible for child protection in the youth group.
- A child or young person has alleged that they are being abused.
- Abuse is seen or suspected.
- The organisation has received a third party report that a child or young person is being abused or neglected.
- There are signs or indications that a child or young person is being abused or neglected.
The first concern must be the reassurance of the child or young person and their protection from any potential risk. During the reporting process the young person should be protected from further contact with the individual involved in the allegation.
The role of the youth work volunteer in child protection is not to investigate or decide if abuse has taken place. It is to observe, record and report.
It is important that staff and volunteers follow the steps outlined below:
Remain calm and natural. You have been approached because you are trusted, not because you are an expert counsellor.
Listen and take the allegation seriously
You must take any disclosure seriously. Listen to what the child or young person is saying. Do not pressurise them and allow them to disclose information at their own pace.
You should not investigate, ask leading questions or ask specific or explicit questions. You should only clarify what they are willing to tell you in their own words. Try to do this in an appropriate place, such as a room where other people can see in through an open door or window. Whilst it’s important to respect the young person’s privacy it should not be at the expense of other child protection measures.
Reassure them that you believe what they are saying and that you know it is not their fault. You should also give them some indication of what you will do next with the information that they have given you.
Do not promise to keep the information secret; you may have to inform an appropriate person. Details of the disclosure should only be passed on to the designated person, who should refer the case to the appropriate authorities. Wherever possible you should try not to discuss any concerns that you have about a child or young person in a way that may lead others to suspect that they are being abused.
If you are able to, make brief notes during the initial disclosure, explaining to the young person why you are doing it. If it’s not possible to do so at the time, record the details as soon as you can after the disclosure with as many facts as you can remember (dates, times, words used).
Look after yourself
Being trusted with a disclosure directly from a young person can be emotionally draining, worrying and very stressful. Whilst it’s essential that confidentiality is maintained at all times, it’s important that you consider your own emotional feelings and discuss any anxieties you have with the designated person responsible for child protection in the youth group.