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Barriers for professionals to reporting abuse and neglect

Helplines insight briefing

Publication date March 2024

This briefing shares experiences of adults working or volunteering with young people where they faced barriers to reporting abuse and neglect. This is drawn from contacts to the NSPCC Helpline and the Whistleblowing Advice Line in 2022/23.

Even when an organisation has child safeguarding processes in place, staff and volunteers can still face barriers in effectively raising concerns or taking action to protect a child’s safety and wellbeing. By better understanding barriers to reporting we can consider how they could be removed.

The briefing identified gaps in knowledge and confidence for some professionals including:

  • feeling like they have insufficient evidence or details
  • believing they needed to wait for permission to report concerns
  • facing unfamiliar safeguarding scenarios.

There were also fears around sharing concerns:

  • worries about disrupting or breaking up families
  • fears for personal safety and the safety of others
  • potential job insecurity.

And some professionals described issues with organisational responses:

  • lack of safeguarding processes
  • dismissive responses
  • concealing abuse.
Barriers for professionals to reporting abuse and neglect
Download the briefing (PDF)
“Two children I work with mentioned witnessing scenes of domestic abuse and violence that got me really worried. I informed the safeguarding lead about it, but nothing has been put in place to support them and no referral was made. I’m pretty sure this is because they are afraid of repercussions if they act on the allegations. One of the parents is known for threatening staff, they’re very intimidating”

Youth Professional
"I'm at my wits end. I have a child in my class and he keeps saying some really worrying things about his mother’s behaviour and how things are at home. Some colleagues said he makes stuff up sometimes, and I can't get hold of his mother myself to see if there is truth to any of it. I’m besides myself worrying if something is going on. I’m not sure what to try next, I don't know if going round there myself is overstepping a boundary"

Education Professional


Please cite as: NSPCC (2024) Barriers for professionals to reporting abuse and neglect. London: NSPCC

Childline and NSPCC Helpline insight briefings

Our insight briefings use data and insight from Childline counselling sessions and NSPCC Helpline contacts to explore concerns children and young people have raised and how these affect them.

See the full series