Last month England’s Department for Education launched a new phase in their Together, we can tackle child abuse campaign. They say this is in response to a YouGov poll that “more than a quarter (26 per cent) of adults surveyed said they had worried about the welfare, neglect or abuse of a child, of which over two-fifths (42 per cent) did not report their suspicions to someone with child protection responsibilities” (DfE, 2018). The campaign aims are threefold: to increase public awareness of different types of child abuse and neglect; providing information on what to look out for; and to provide information on how and why people should report their concerns.
As people who strive to be advocates for young children, we understand the importance of passing information on to relevant professionals when we are worried about something in relation to their safety or well-being. When we came across this campaign it made us think back to our first blog post of 2018, in which we resolved to speak up more for children when we notice things that just aren’t right. We hope that the campaign might support others in speaking up for children and recognising why it’s an important thing to do. Essentially, we believe that everyone should be a children’s champion – someone who acts as an advocate for young children and their rights.
This sentiment is something that Minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi agrees with, arguing that “keeping children safe from harm is everyone’s responsibility.” This is echoed in an Ofsted (2011) report about recognising the voice of the child for effective child protection. One of the main messages from the report is the importance of “listening to adults who speak on behalf of the child” (2011, p.8). It shares an example of a member of the public who acted as a children’s champion and understood that safeguarding children is everyone’s responsibility:
“A two-year-old boy was taken by his mother to a supermarket. A member of staff in the supermarket noticed that the child was severely emaciated and that the mother was buying food suitable for a child aged only three to six months. Recognising the uniform of the boy’s sibling, the staff member passed on the concerns to the school. Staff at the school identified the family and conveyed the information to children’s social care. The boy was found to be suffering from severe malnutrition and developmental delay. These concerns had not previously been noticed by the agencies involved with the family.”
This supermarket employee should be commended for taking responsibility to keep children safe, and they aren’t the only one. Some of our readers, particularly those in the USA, might be familiar with this news article from 2017 in which a flight attendant had concerns about a teenage girl accompanying an older man on a flight. Her intuition and discrete action enabled the girl to inform the flight attendant that she was unsafe; in fact, she was a victim of human trafficking.
We want to highlight that, just as the Together, we can tackle child abuse campaign suggests, looking out for children (and taking appropriate action when things don’t seem right) is everyone’s responsibility. But we’d be interested in hearing your views. What do you think makes a children’s champion? And what other strategies do you think might encourage the general public to take action when they have concerns?