Worried about a child’s safety or welfare?

What to do if you are worried about a child's safety or welfare

It is sometimes difficult to know what to do if you think a child or young person is at risk. You may also have doubts that you have misjudged a certain situation or that your feelings about the situation may be incorrect.

Whatever the situation, it’s always best to speak to someone. Remember it’s better to raise your concerns, rather than ignore them.

Who do I report my concerns to?

If you feel there is an immediate risk to the child or young person, then you must call the emergency services on 999. If it’s not an emergency, you can report a crime online or call 101.

You should report your concerns to your children’s social care team, also known as your local safeguarding team.

If you wish to remain anonymous, you can discuss your concerns and get advice from:

  • The NSPCC (for adults)
    Telephone: 0808 800 5000
    Email: help@NSPCC.org.uk
  • ChildLine (for children and young people)
    Telephone: 0800 1111

What to report

Below are some warning signs of when a child might be suffering from abuse. These are just some types of child abuse; you can get more information about the different types of child abuse from the NSPCC website.

Physical Abuse

Can include hitting, slapping, punching, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, scalding, drowning, suffocating, unsafe handling or inappropriate restraint, misuse of medication or otherwise causing physical harm.

Signs and symptoms of physical abuse in children can include:

  • unexplained recurrent injuries, marks or burns
  • covering injuries with clothing even in hot weather
  • fear of physical contact and shrinking back if touched

The above are just a few examples.

Emotional Abuse

Can include threats of harm or abandonment, lack of physical contact, humiliation, blaming, bullying (including cyber bullying), controlling behaviour, intimidation, overprotection, verbal abuse, isolation, expectations which are inappropriate for the developmental stage of the child.

Signs and symptoms of emotional abuse in children can include:

  • reduced physical, mental, and emotional development
  • continual self-deprecation, e.g. ‘I’m stupid’, ‘I’m ugly’, ‘I’m worthless’
  • inappropriate response to pain, e.g. ‘I deserve this’

The above are just a few examples.

Sexual Abuse

Forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities. Includes physical contact, such as rape, sexual assault or sexual acts and may also involve non-contact activities such as grooming (including via the internet) or exposure to pornographic material. Sexual abuse can be perpetrated by adult males, females and other children.

Signs and symptoms of sexual abuse in children can include:

  • extreme reactions such as depression, self-harm, suicide attempts, running away, overdoses or anorexia
  • personality changes such as becoming insecure or clingy
  • being isolated or withdrawn
  • medical problems such as chronic itching, pain in the genitals or sexually transmitted diseases

The above are just a few examples. Another form of sexual abuse is child sexual exploitation.


Failure to meet physical and/or psychological needs of a child, including ignoring medical, emotional or physical care needs. Failure to provide access to appropriate health, care and support or educational services. Failure to provide adequate nutrition, shelter or warmth. Failure to ensure adequate supervision (including use of inadequate care givers) or to protect from physical and emotional harm or danger.

Signs and symptoms of neglect in children can include:

  • constant hunger or tiredness
  • poor personal hygiene
  • poor condition and lack of cleanliness
  • untreated medical problems
  • no social relationships

The above are just a few examples.

What action will professionals take once I have reported it?

The person who answers your call will decide what to do. For example, they might:

  • need to gather more information
  • contact a social worker and ask them to look into it
  • contact the police, if they think the child is at immediate risk or a crime has been committed

The children’s social care team will tell you what happens next, though they will not be able to give you any confidential information.