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Child protection

Date updated: 10/11/2022
Call 999 if you think a child is at risk of immediate harm.

Please contact us if you have any concerns about the safety or wellbeing of a child or young person who lives in the City of London:

Keeping children and young people safe is the responsibility of everyone, from professional carers to the general public.

Child abuse and child exploitation can both cause significant harm and come in various forms.

Emotional abuse and neglect can be just as damaging to a child as physical abuse.

It is important that everyone is informed of what these are, how to recognise them and what to do if you are concerned about a child.

Read on for more information.

Physical abuse can involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, scalding, drowning or otherwise causing harm to children. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces illness in a child.

Signs that may suggest physical abuse

Below are just some of the signs a child suffering physical abuse might exhibit:

  • Any bruising to a baby – pre-walking stage.
  • Multiple bruising to different parts of the body.
  • Bruising of different colours indicating repeated injuries.
  • Fingertip bruising to the chest, back, arms or legs.
  • Burns of any shape or size.
  • An injury for which there is no adequate explanation.

Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening.

The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing.

They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet).

Adult males do not solely perpetrate sexual abuse. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.

Signs of possible sexual abuse

  • Something a child has told you.
  • Something a child has told someone else.
  • A child who shows worrying sexualised behaviour in their play or with other children.
  • A child who seems to have inappropriate sexual knowledge for their age.
  • A child who may be visiting or being looked after by a known or suspected sexual offender.

More on Child Sexual Exploitation.

Emotional abuse is defined as the 'persistent emotional maltreatment of a child, such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child's emotional development.'

It may involve 'conveying to children that they are worthless, unloved, inadequate, or valued only in so far as they meet the needs of another person.'

It may include:

  • Not giving the child opportunities to express their views deliberately silencing them or ‘making fun' of what they say or how they communicate.
  • Imposing age or developmentally inappropriate expectations beyond the child’s developmental capability.
  • Over protection, limitation of exploration and learning or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction.
  • The exploitation or corruption of children.
  • Children seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another- domestic violence.
  • Children witnessing adults abusing drugs or alcohol.
  • Serious bullying (including cyber-bullying).
  • Causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger.

Signs which may suggest emotional harm

  • Children whose behaviour is excessive. For example, excessive bedwetting, overeating, rocking, head banging.
  • Children who self harm. For example, they may cut or scratch themselves or overdose.
  • Children who attempt suicide.
  • Children who persistently run away from home.
  • Children who show high levels of anxiety, unhappiness or withdrawal.
  • Children who usually seek out or avoid affection.

Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child's health or development.

Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse.

Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:

  • provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment)
  • protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger
  • ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate. care-givers)
  • ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment

It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child's basic emotional needs.

Signs of possible neglect

  • Squalid, unhygienic or dangerous home conditions.
  • Parents who fail to attend to their children's health or development needs.
  • Children who appear persistently undersized or underweight.
  • Children who continually appear tired or lacking in energy.
  • Children who suffer frequent injuries due to lack of supervision.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a practice that involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia.

Religious, social or cultural reasons are sometimes given for FGM. However, FGM is child abuse. It's dangerous and a criminal offence. The City and Hackney Safeguarding Children's Partnership have brought together some information around faith, belief and harmful practices.

It also causes significant health problems, ranging from severe pain to emotional and psychological shock, and even death. In the long term it can cause chronic infection, damage to the reproductive system and complications in sex, pregnancy and childbirth.

FGM is illegal in the UK under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 and under the Children Acts 1989 and 2004. These laws exist to protect women and children in the UK. Parents can be prosecuted on return to the UK if FGM is carried out on a child while out of the country. Information about FGM can be found on the City of London Police website.

If you are worried that a child is at risk, or has been a victim of FGM, please contact the Children and Families team.

Other ways to get support:

  • NSPCC: Advice and Information 0800 028 3550
  • FORWARD: UK Leading organisation for FGM and women and girls issues 0208 960 4000
  • City of London Vulnerable Victim advocate 07944 634946

​Extremists are targeting and grooming impressionable young people through social media and the internet in order to influence their minds. 

Their message can have a powerful impact on someone who is young and potentially vulnerable.   

Anyone immediately worried about a child in the City of London who might be at risk of radicalisation should contact the Prevent Engagement Team on 020 7601 2420/2472​​​​.

Parents or carers who may be concerned about a child being exposed to extremism or radicalisation can find more information from the following sites: