Members of the public have an important role to play in identifying and responding to child maltreatment. In their daily lives, they have opportunities to notice signs of risk that are not visible in professionals’ contact with children and families. 1
To find out what makes some members of the public take action when worried about a child, and why others fail to act on their concerns, we conducted a literature review. A total of 47 sources were included, with representation from a range of countries. We looked at:
Our literature review has informed the NSPCC Listen up, Speak up campaign, ensuring that everyone plays their part to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Authors: Deborah Radcliffe, Emma Smith and Susan Cooke
ReferencesGiovannoni, J.M. (1995) Reports of child maltreatment from mandated and non-mandated reporters. Children and Youth Services Review 17(4): 487-501 Cited in: Spilsbury, J.C. et al (2022) “A rising tide floats all boats”: the role of neighborhood collective efficacy in responding to child maltreatment. Child Abuse and Neglect, 124: 105461.
People in the UK appear to have a basic understanding of neglect and feel confident about their ability to identify concerns.
However, some forms of maltreatment, such as sexual abuse and neglect, are less well-understood than others.
The majority of public, who responded to UK or international surveys, indicated that they would report any concerns about child maltreatment to police or social services.
Members of the public (based on international studies) seemed more likely to report concerns that they feel are more significant, serious or abusive.
When faced with conerns in a real-life situation people were more likely to say that they offered informal support rather than reported their concerns to police or social services.
Key barriers preventing people from reporting concerns to police or social services included:
Please cite as: Radcliffe, D., Smith, E. and Cooke, S. (2023) Building 'a community of safeguarders': what encourages the general public to act on their concerns about a child and what prevents them from acting? London: NSPCC.
What to do if you have concerns that a child you know through your work or volunteering has experienced abuse and neglect.
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