Social workers who suspect a child may be at risk of abuse or neglect should visit the family regularly for at least six months, the Department of Health has suggested.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is a branch of the Department of Health which provides guidance on health and social care practice. In a new discussion document, Nice claims such repeat visits have been shown to be effective and that their routine introduction would not require extensive investment.
Entitled “Child abuse and neglect: recognising, assessing and responding to abuse and neglect of children and young people”, the draft guidance explores common symptoms and the most effective ways for social workers and childcare professionals to respond. It outlines a programme for the repeated home visits, saying social workers must focus on helping struggling parents to deal with the problems they face and strengthening the relationship they have with their children. Those with drug, drink or mental health issues must receive appropriate support it states.
The document lists various behavioural issues that could suggest a child is experiencing abuse or neglect. These include nightmares, temper tantrums and desperation for attention.
Children who regularly come to school with injuries or who behave in an inappropriate sexual way should be the subject of serious concern Nice declares.
The Nice report is aimed at all professionals working with children outside hospitals and GP surgeries. It has been released for consultation and feedback until mid-April .
Professor Corinne May-Chahal is an expert in child protection and helped to draft the new guidance. She said:
“Our awareness of the different forms of child abuse and neglect is developing all the time but it is difficult for professionals to keep track of the best ways to assess abuse and intervene effectively. This guideline is important as it will help professionals spot the warning signs and then focus on what early help and interventions can be provided.”