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5. What to do if abuse is suspected.

a) We have a responsibility: The children's Act 1989 was brought out as a means to promote and protect the welfare of all children, and within the working together framework states that:-

"The community as a whole has a responsibility for the well-being of children. This means that all citizens should remain alert to circumstances in which children may be harmed. Individuals can assist the statutory authorities by bringing cases to their attention. Relatives, friends and neighbours of children are particularly well placed to do so, but they must know what to do if they are concerned, in addition to providing support for the family and child, which may include help caring for the child. They must also be confident, because of the difficult and sensitive nature of the situation, that any information they provide will be treated in a confidential way and used only to protect the interests of the child. They should know too that early action on their part is often the best way of helping a family stay together as well as protecting their child".

b) The local Social Services note the following in their preamble when dealing with voluntary social work agencies involved in child care.

(i) Voluntary agency staff involved with families and children are likely to receive referrals/information/allegations or witness concerns suggestive of the need for a child protection investigation under section 47 of the 1989 Children's Act. It is the responsibility of the voluntary agency to refer concerns to the Social Services department.

(ii) The role of the voluntary agency in these circumstances, except in the case of medical emergency, is essentially to collect and clarify the precise details of the allegation, and provide information to the Social Services department, whose task it is to investigate under section 47 of the 1989 Children's Act.

The role of the voluntary agency is not an investigative one.

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