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What You Can Do

What to do if you are worried about a child

It is everybody’s responsibility to keep children and young people safe. If you’re concerned that a child is being abused or neglected you should report it so that the child can be protected.  If you are a member of the public and think the child is in immediate danger or in a life threatening situation you should call the police.  For all other less urgent concerns speak to somebody in the Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) team.  The trained professionals will listen to your concerns and make decisions about the next steps to ensure the child’s safety and wellbeing.

Professionals should discuss their concerns in the first instance with their manager or the designated member of staff with responsibility for safeguarding.  .

In March 2015 the Department for Education published new Guidance to help practitioners identify the signs of child abuse and neglect and understand what action to take. Members of the public are also likely to find this guidance useful if they are worried about a child.

Download: What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused: Advice for practitioners 2015 (pdf)

Types of abuse

Abuse can take different forms. Common types are:

  • Neglect – the persistent lack of essential care for a child including enough love, stimulation, safety, food, clothing, shelter, medical care or education. It can also mean leaving a child alone and at risk.
  • Emotional abuse – can mean repeatedly rejecting a child, constantly threatening or putting a child or young person down so that they feel unloved and worthless.
  • Physical abuse – including hitting, punching, burning, poisoning, attempted drowning and smothering.
  • Sexual abuse – forcing or persuading a child or young person to take part in any kind of sexual activity. It can include inappropriate touching, kissing or sexual intercourse. It can also involve causing a child to look at, or being involved in pornographic material or videos.

A child may experience more than one type of abuse or neglect.

We have a legal duty to look into a child’s circumstances when somebody suspects abuse or neglect is occurring. A social worker usually does this job for us. The social worker will need you to give them relevant information so they can plan the best way of checking the child is safe and, if necessary, draw up plans for further action.


Contact us

MASH* Team
Children, Schools and Families Department
12th Floor, Merton Civic Centre
London Road

Telephone: 020 8545 4226 or 020 8545 4227 (out of hours: 020 8770 5000)
Fax: 020 8545 4204

You do not have to give your name and your conversation will be treated confidentially.

You may also contact us by email:

In an emergency contact the police by telephone on 999