D2: Justify responses where child maltreatment or abuse is suspected or confirmed referring to current legislation and policies.
The first step in responding to suspicion of child abuse is to investigate. This is supported by the Children Act 1989 which states that if there has been a reasonable cause to suspect a child is being maltreated or abused there is a duty to investigate. The Children Act 1989 was updated to the Children Act 2004 after the Victoria Climbie case and the recommendations made by Lord Laming in the inquiry held into her death, because the original Act was found not to be effective enough in protecting and safeguarding children. The first step of investigating needs to be supported by reasonable suspicion that come from disclosure.
Disclosure is when someone, in this case a young person or child, feels that they trust you enough to tell you sensitive information. Direct disclosure is when a child tells you directly that they are being abused or neglected for instance; when a child tells her favourite teacher that she has a secret she isn’t supposed to tell anyone and then tells her teacher that her uncle makes her do things she doesn’t like to do. However, direct disclosures are rare and abuse is often identified or suspected through indirect disclosures. Indirect disclosures are when children communicate what they have experienced through their behaviours, emotions, art, writing or play. Examples of indirect disclosures; when a child is demonstrating an inappropriate amount of sexual knowledge when talking amongst friends and a teacher has overheard the conversation, inappropriate or extensive sexual knowledge is an indicator of sexual abuse. Another example is when a child uses predominantly dark colours in their art work as this could suggest depression or emotional abuse.
A report into disclosures of childhood abuse undertaken by the NSPCC called ‘No One Noticed, No One Heard’ revealed that although it is said that young people who experience abuse do not talk about it, the study showed that out of 60 people 48 attempted to disclose their abuse – that amounts to 80%. Of the 203 disclosures made (the 48 out of 60 who attempted to disclose their abuse, attempted to multiple times) only 117 were acted upon by the recipients.
The report also emphasises that suffering abuse is a distressing experience ad that the improper handling of disclosures only adds to the negative experiences of the victims.