Child abuse

Children have a right to grow up safe from harm. It's not acceptable for anyone to treat a child in a way that makes him or her unhappy and will affect how they grow up.

Behaviour that harms children

Some examples of harmful behaviour towards children include:

  • hitting a child, especially if the hitting is frequent, with an object such as a belt, which breaks the skin or causes bruising to the head or body
  • neglecting a child's needs for basic day-to-day care such as food, clothing or care when they're ill and being watched over
  • sexual abuse, which includes allowing a child to see pornography
  • causing a child to feel unnecessarily upset or frightened a lot of the time by constantly putting them down, fighting in front of them or asking them to keep a secret

If you think a child you know may be coming to harm, you should always do something. If a child is in immediate danger or left alone, contact the police on 999.

Find out more about child abuse on the NSPCC website.

Worried about child abuse?

If you know of a child or young person who is being abused or neglected or you're a young person who is being abused, you must tell someone.

You can let social services know by contacting the referral and assessment team. They will keep your personal details private if requested.

  • phone 020 7525 1921 - during office hours
  • phone 020 7525 5000 - out of hours, evenings and weekends
  • email   
If you need immediate help, ring the police on 999

We're here to help

Many people worry that if they contact social services about a child, the child will be taken into care, but this rarely happens.

Social workers don't have the right to remove children from home. Only a court or a senior police officer can order this and they will only do so if there's a real danger of serious harm to the child.

In most cases social services will want to speak to the child, their carers and other professionals who know the child, such as their teacher or health visitor. If there's a problem they'll try to work with the family to improve things.

Help and advice with parenting

We know that most parents and carers want the best for the children they are bringing up. We also know that most parents and carers struggle at some point in their children's lives. You can find advice for parents and carers here.

If you're finding it a struggle to look after children it is important to ask for help. Talk to your health visitor or a social worker.  

The children's services pages give information about health and social care services provided for children and young people. You can also look at help available around child protection from education services. Information about children's services in Southwark can be found on the children and young people's directory.

There's further help and advice available for children and young people who are suffering abuse or who need somone to talk to.

Below you can find information on:

If you're unsure if it's abuse - look for signs

A third of people, who suspect child abuse, do nothing. A number of people do not act on their suspicions because they’re worried about being wrong.

To spot the signs of child abuse or neglect, look for changes in:

  • Appearance - such as frequent unexplained injuries, consistently poor hygiene, matted hair, unexplained gifts, or a parent regularly collecting children from school when drunk
  • Behaviour - such as demanding or aggressive behaviour, frequent lateness or absence from school, avoiding their own family, misusing drugs or alcohol, or being constantly tired
  • Communication - such as sexual or aggressive language, self-harming, becoming secretive and reluctant to share information or being overly obedient

See our mythbuster section about reporting abuse.

Those at risk of child abuse

Whatever their background, age, gender, race or sexuality or wherever they live, any child or young person could be abused or neglected. Child abuse and neglect can occur anywhere.

You can contact the Children's Services duty child protection coordinator (LADO) on 020 7525 3297 for advice.

The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) works within Children’s Services and provides advice and guidance to employers, organisations and other individuals who have concerns about the behaviours of an adult who works with children and young people.

Southwark Safeguarding Children Board

The Southwark Safeguarding Children Board oversees work in Southwark to keep children and young people safe from harm.

The board does not provide direct services but has a statutory duty to make sure services are effective and work together. To find out more visit the Safeguarding Children Board's pages.

Useful contacts

NSPCC Child Protection Helpline
24-hour freephone service for adults, children or young people for advice or to give details about a child who may be at risk.
Tel: 0808 800 5000

24-hour freephone for children and young people who need advice
Tel: 0800 1111

Family Lives
A freephone advice line for parents.
Tel: 0808 800 2222

Information and a listening ear to anyone in a parenting role

Sure Start
Brings together early education, childcare, health and family support

Page last updated: 24 May 2018