Norfolk PCC is supporting a campaign alongside Norfolk County Council, Norfolk Constabulary and the other members of the Norfolk Children’s Safeguarding Board as part of a national Department for Education campaign “Together, we can tackle child abuse”.
The campaign highlights the role everyone has to play in protecting children and young people from abuse and neglect, so a call is going out to all Norfolk people encouraging them to come forward if they have concerns.
In Norfolk in January this year, 2441 people contacted the Norfolk MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub), of those 1090 were about a child potentially suffering abuse or neglect. However, national research shows almost half those who have suspicions don’t come forward to report it because they are worried about being wrong or about what might happen next, so there is more people could do.
The national campaign seeks to reassure people that their concerns will form part of a picture that can help protect a child from harm – and that it is rare that professional agencies act on one piece of evidence alone.
One concern is that people aren’t sure how to spot the signs of child abuse and neglect – and so an easy ABC is being promoted by the campaign to encourage people to report if they spot unusual changes in the following things:
PCC Stephen Bett said “This campaign has my full support. Sexual abuse, in all its horrific forms, is a crime that leaves its victims with a legacy of distress and anguish. Having spoken to people who have suffered sexual abuse I know that the mental and emotional scars can take years to heal, if indeed they ever do.
“As a victims’ champion I know how crucial it is that those who have suffered are able to access the support they need – whether it be immediately or, in some cases, years later.
“My office recently administered the distributed over £5 million of nation funding for victims of sexual abuse. The money allocated to various organisations is making a genuine difference to helping those who have suffered abuse or neglect.”
Detective Superintendent Julie Wvendth of Norfolk Constabulary’s Safeguarding and Investigations Command, said: “Norfolk Constabulary supports any initiative which helps to encourage people not to be fearful but to report suspected child abuse or neglect.
“Our aim is to prevent harm to those being abused, to safeguard vulnerable children and young people, to bring offenders to justice and to ensure the public have confidence in reporting their suspicions to us.
“It is crucial we continue to work with partners to address such abuse however, as a community, we all have a role to play in protecting children and young people.
“No matter how small a piece of information you feel you have it is important to come forward as it may well be the key to completing the jigsaw. Information is usually gathered from many sources, and your report could form part of a bigger picture.
“All children have a right to be safe and protected from harm.”
In 2014/15, more than 400,000 children in England were supported because someone noticed they needed help. Children and families can be helped at an earlier stage with preventative support, if more members of the public share their concerns with their children’s social care teams.
As of 31 January 2016, there were 1,045 looked after children in Norfolk with 703 of those children who have been abused or neglected.
James Joyce, Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Children’s Services Committee, said: “Everyone has a role to play in helping to protect children. If you think a child is being abused or you think their safety is at risk, then it is important to tell someone. Even if you’re not completely sure, it’s always better to report it to us at the county council as we have a dedicated social care team who will listen and help. You don’t have to be absolutely certain, but the relevant organisations are able to form a bigger and more accurate picture if they have as much information as possible.
“It’s also important that we dispel common myths and misconceptions about reporting child abuse. We want to reassure people that if they do come forward with information it doesn’t mean a child will be removed immediately from their family by social workers. You can also report your concerns anonymously, so people won’t know it’s you.”
Over the coming months, messages from the campaign will be seen in a variety of ways in Norfolk including through information from schools and across parish councils. It will also be highlighted on social media using the hashtag #tackleabusetogether on Twitter.