All practitioners should be aware of the definitions of abuse and neglect in the Social Services and Well-being Act (Wales) 2014 as well as the signs and indicators of abuse and neglect. This is essential in order to communicate concerns about harm in a meaningful way.
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and accompanying Guidance define a ‘child’ as a person who is aged under 18.
It is important to note:
The use of the term ‘at risk’ means that actual abuse or neglect does not need to occur, rather early interventions to protect a child at risk should be considered to prevent actual harm, abuse and neglect;
The two conditions necessary to demonstrate a child is at risk of abuse or neglect ensures that protection is provided to those with care and support needs who also require actions to secure their safety in the future;
Risk of abuse or neglect may be the consequence of one concern or a result of cumulative factors.
Harm is defined as:
the impairment of physical or mental health (including that suffered from seeing or hearing another person suffer ill treatment).
the impairment of physical intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development (including that suffered from seeing or hearing another person suffer ill treatment).
The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples for each of the categories of harm, abuse and neglect included in vol 5 Working Together to Safeguard People: Volume 5 – Handling Individual Cases to Protect Children at Risk
physical abuse - hitting, slapping, over or misuse of medication, undue restraint, or inappropriate sanctions;
emotional/psychological abuse - threats of harm or abandonment, coercive control, humiliation, verbal or racial abuse, isolation or withdrawal from services or supportive networks, witnessing abuse of others
sexual abuse - forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening, including: physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts; non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways;
financial abuse - this category will be less prevalent for a child but indicators could be:
not meeting their needs for care and support which are provided through direct payments; or
complaints that personal property is missing.
neglect - failure to meet basic physical, emotional or psychological needs which is likely to result in impairment of health or development.
Risk from other actual or potential harm to a child or young person may also result from:
Concerns about likely or actual significant harm to a child is the threshold for initiating [s47 enquiries under the Children Act 1989]
There is no statutory definition of significant harm. Therefore, practitioners must:
‘Where the question of whether harm is significant turns on the child’s health or development, the child’s health or development is to be compared with that which could reasonably be expected of a similar child (Section 31(9), Children Act 1989.)