Guidance on managing allegations made against a child
Statutory guidance across the UK highlights the responsibility of those in the education, community and care sectors to safeguard children from all forms of abuse and neglect.
In England, Keeping children safe in education requires schools to have a child protection policy that includes:
- procedures to minimise the risk of peer on peer abuse
- information about how allegations of peer on peer abuse will be recorded, investigated and dealt with
- clear processes for how any child involved with or affected by peer on peer abuse will be supported
- a clear statement that abuse should never be tolerated or passed off as "banter", "just having a laugh" or "part of growing up"
- recognition that peer on peer abuse can be gendered but also that all peer on peer abuse is unacceptable and will be taken seriously
- information about the different forms peer on peer abuse can take
(Department for Education, 2021).
In Northern Ireland, Co-operating to Safeguard Children and Young People in Northern Ireland highlights the responsibility of professionals to children and young people who have been abused as well as those who have behaved abusively (Department of Health, 2017).
The guidance highlights that professionals should consider whether a child or young person who has abused another child is at risk of continuing significant harm and should be the subject of a child protection case conference.
In cases where it's decided not to hold a child protection case conference, a multi-agency assessment and response should be made to meet the young person's needs.
In Scotland, National guidance for child protection in Scotland 2014 (PDF) highlights the importance of working both with those who have experienced abuse and those who have carried out abuse, including young people (Scottish Government, 2014).
The guidance highlights that when abuse of a child or young person is reported to have been carried out by another child or young person, the behaviour should always be treated seriously and involve a discussion between relevant agencies. This discussion should cover all the children involved.
In cases where a child or young person displays harmful sexual behaviour, organisations should immediately consider whether child protection action is needed to:
- protect the child who has been abused
- to address concerns about what has caused the child/young person to display the harmful sexual behaviour.
> Find out more about harmful sexual behaviour
In Wales, the Wales Safeguarding Procedures includes a practice guide on safeguarding children where there are concerns about harmful sexual behaviour.
This sets out how organisations should respond to allegations concerning harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) by one child towards another (Wales Safeguarding Procedures Project Board, 2020). When there are concerns about a child displaying HSB, this must include a discussion about keeping other children safe. This should include within the child’s home and education setting (Wales Safeguarding Procedures Project Board, 2020).
If a decision is made not to hold a child protection conference or put the young person on the child protection register, work with the young person and possibly their family/caregivers may still be recommended and there must be continued multi agency working and meetings.