Consultation - soft signs of abuse
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    Default Consultation - soft signs of abuse

    There is a new consultation from the Department for Education, Department for Health and National Institute for Health and care Excellence (NICE) which asks us to consider what sort of changes to children’s behaviour might mean they are being abused.

    The consultation calls these changes to behaviour ‘soft signs’ of abuse and suggests they might indicate problems in a child’s life that need to be followed up.

    The consultation proposes all those involved with children including teachers, police officers, nursery staff and other professionals and providers need to look out for the following signs that could indicate that a child is being abused or neglected –
    • Low self-esteem
    • Wetting and soiling
    • Recurrent nightmares
    • Aggressive behaviour
    • Withdrawing communication
    • Habitual body rocking
    • Indiscriminate contact or affection seeking
    • Over-friendliness towards strangers
    • Excessive clinginess
    • Persistently seeking attention.

    Professor Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE said: "We want all professionals to be aware and recognise when they need to ask questions or follow up with colleagues about a child's wellbeing. Not all cases will cause concern but if we do not ask, we may miss opportunities to protect children in their time of need. I guess we can be a bit British and perhaps aren't curious enough and think we shouldn't ask the questions, so I guess (the guideline is) permission to be curious."

    Many early years professionals are questioning whether they have the skills and knowledge – or even the right – to ask such searching and intrusive questions of parents and children’s families when many changes to children’s behaviour are age appropriate or might be caused by something as innocuous as lack of sleep… will searching questions from practitioners and possible reporting procedures if answers are not forthcoming leave parents feeling increasingly stressed and determined to control their child’s behaviour – especially in public – in case they are misunderstood?

    The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS, 2014) states - ‘Providers must be alert to any issues for concern in the child’s life at home or elsewhere’ and that sasfeguarding / child rpotection training must prepare staff to respond in a timely way if they notice ‘significant changes in children's behaviour’. Most practitioners feel comfortable with this requirement – a ‘significant’ change is spotted quickly and the child is supported, with input from parents and, where relevant, other agencies or professionals.

    These ‘soft signs’ of possible abuse are taking a further step to protect children – or might they be a step too far? Remember this is draft guidance and we have the opportunity to have our say…

    The public consultation on the guidelines will close on 19th April. You can find it here - Child abuse and neglect | Guidance and guidelines | NICE but I'm not sure how accessible it is for individuals - I suggest you speak to your membership organisation and find out if they are replying - you can then ask them to take your views into consideration.

    For further information you can read a report from BBC here –
    NICE advice to look for 'soft' signs of child abuse - BBC News
    Last edited by sarah707; 28-02-2017 at 09:42 PM.

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