Back to Safeguarding principles and effective practice: children

Early help and prevention from abuse, neglect and harm

Child abuse and neglect can cause both significant harm to children (See signs and indicators) and long-term effects into adulthood. However, early help, also referred to as early intervention, can:

It is important therefore, that early help is offered to children that are identified as vulnerable to possible abuse and neglect and their families.2

Moreover, recent research by Public Health Wales has highlighted how Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can affect individuals throughout the life-course.

The ACEs include:

The researchers found those who had experienced four or more ACEs were more likely to have issues including, health-harming behaviours, poor mental health, chronic disease and wider social problems such as unemployment, lower socio-economic status and diminished social mobility. There is also increased risk of the child becoming involved with the criminal justice system.3

Bearing in mind the possible detrimental effects of abuse and neglect throughout the life course the most effective strategy is to prevent children from experiencing abuse, neglect and harm.

The task: identifying and addressing emerging concerns

The tasks for practitioners in contact with children and their families who may be vulnerable to abuse and neglect are two-fold to:

and, if this is not effective:

When identifying possible emerging concerns about abuse and/or neglect practitioners should ask:

Practitioners should share their concerns and any information obtained with their designated safeguarding person (DSP).

They should also record these concerns and information obtained.

If at any point during their involvement with a child/family a practitioner becomes concerned that the child may be experiencing or at risk of experiencing abuse, neglect or harm they should discuss their concerns with their safeguarding lead. (See Duty to Report )

Pointers for Practice: Identifying Children Who May Require Early Interventions Because Of Vulnerability to Abuse and Neglect

Practitioners in contact with children and families

Practitioners who are in contact with children and their families are particularly well placed to identify emerging concerns about abuse and neglect. They include:

N.B. this is not an exhaustive list.

Delivering appropriate interventions: co-production

It is essential that the child and family are actively engaged in determining the best way in which their needs can be met.

The child must be seen and listened to and their wishes and feelings considered, whatever their method of communication. Engaging with, and listening to, what children and young people say about what is happening to them should be the cornerstone of effective intervention and support.

Children and their parents/carers are most likely to engage with early help services if:

Pointers for Practice: Facilitating Family Engagement

Types of interventions

Interventions can take various forms:

These interventions may be provided by practitioners from a diverse range of disciplines who are in contact with the child and their family.5 For example, health visitors may be best placed to provide advice about child development in early years.

When determining the most appropriate interventions consideration should be given to:

The following questions are designed to identify and deliver appropriate interventions:

Pointers for Practice: Ways in Which Practitioners Can Contribute to Early Help to Address Emerging Safeguarding Concerns

1 Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) (2018) About early intervention: why it matters


3 Public Health Wales

4 Easton, C., Lamont, L., Smith, R. and Aston, H. (2013). ‘We Should Have Been Helped from Day One’: a Unique Perspective From Children, Families and Practitioners. Findings from LARC5. Slough: NFER