Guidance & advice

We all need to watch out for children who may be at risk, or experiencing abuse or neglect.  Children can’t protect themselves – they need us to help them.

You can play your part by always being alert to the signs that things are not well, and by acting on your concerns.

If you think a child is in immediate danger, you should contact the police by ringing 999.

If you think a child is at risk, but it doesn’t seem like an emergency that needs police involvement straight away, you can speak to the child protection team in your local area. Find your local child protection team

And if you’re still unsure, you may want ask the child if they are okay, talk with a professional like a teacher, health visitor or nurse, or give Parentline a call 08000 28 22 33 and we’ll help you work out what to next.

Not sure what to do?

If you’re unsure of whether to report or not, stop and think – what could happen to the child you are concerned about if you do nothing? It may be your call that gets the child and their family help they need.

We can help

We understand that, in many situations, it can be difficult to work out what to do. If you are concerned about a child, contact Children 1st's confidential Parentline service. We will listen and help you work through what you need to do. We’ll also let you know what support is available.

We don't pass information to anyone, unless you agree, except if a child or vulnerable adult is at risk of significant harm. If we think that's the case, we do all we can to help them be safe and will pass on all details to the police or social work department. This may include any contact information you have shared with us.

What happens if you report a concern?

If you call Parentline, your local social work office or the police, you don't have to give your name. We would encourage you to, in case more information is needed to help the child later on. The most important thing, when any concern is raised, is to keep a child safe.

Many people are unsure about reporting concerns about a child because they are afraid of the impact: will the child be removed or will an adult be charged with a crime?

Every situation is different and each outcome will depend on many different things. The priority is always to protect the child, to help families get the help they need and to keep families together if possible. In a very small number of situations, if a child is not safe at home, they might need to be looked after by a relative.

Common concerns

We receive many calls from adults concerned about a child. These include worries, like:

  • I think my child has been sexually abused.
  • I hear the neighbours hitting / shouting at each other / their kids.
  • The children are unusually quiet and look neglected.
  • My son refuses to go to his Dad’s and won’t say why.
  • Children are left on their own
  • I feel something’s not right but I’m not sure what.

Early help can prevent a crisis

As parents we all need help. But many parents feel overwhelmed by the stress of their everyday lives. Without support, this can lead to relationships breaking down.

If parents can get help early this can prevent a crisis in families and prevent harm to children.

A parent’s or a child’s behaviour may be a sign of distress. Your call for a child or a family may protect a child and get a family the help they need.