It is not unusual for people to disclose experiences of Physical, Sexual and / or Emotional Abuse and / or Neglect which constitute Significant Harm (see recognition of abuse and neglect) only when they reach adulthood.
Significant Harm is defined as a situation where as a child the person suffered a degree of Physical, Sexual and / or Emotional harm (through abuse or neglect), which was so harmful that there should have been compulsory intervention by Child Protection agencies into the life of the child and their family.
Organisational responses to reports by an adult of abuse experienced as a child must be of as high a standard as a response to current abuse because:
- There is a significant likelihood that a person who abused a child/ren in the past will have continued and may still be doing so;
- Criminal prosecution may be possible if sufficient evidence can be carefully collated.
Wherever non-recent abuse enquiries relate to reported abuse within institutions such as children's homes or residential / boarding schools, professionals should follow the Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure; and consult the Government guidance Complex Child Abuse Investigations: Inter-Agency Issues (Home Office and DH, 2002).
When an adult discloses childhood abuse, the professional receiving the information should record the discussion in detail. If possible, the professional should establish if the adult has any knowledge of the alleged abuser's recent or current whereabouts and contact with children. Where it is established or suspected that the alleged abuser continues to work in a position of trust with children, or did in the past, the professional should follow the Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure, which includes making a referral to the Local Authority Designated Officer.
Where a referral is not made to the Local Authority Designated Officer, the professional should make a referral to Children's Social Care, in line with the Oxfordshire Children's Services Procedures Manual, Contacts and Referrals Procedure. This is because of the potential threat the alleged perpetrator may still pose to children.
The children's social worker receiving the referral should seek sufficient information to develop a Chronology, and all records must be dated and the authorship made clear.
If information about the current whereabouts of the alleged abuser has not yet been gathered, Children's Social Care should establish this as a matter of urgency.
The adult who has disclosed should be asked whether they want a police investigation and must be reassured that the police are able and willing to progress an investigation even for those adults who are vulnerable as a result of mental ill health or learning difficulties.
Children's Social Care should reassure the adult that, even without their direct involvement, all reasonable efforts will be made to investigate the alleged abuse. Children's Social Care should support the adult to access therapeutic or other services, as appropriate.
The Children's social worker should:
- Inform the Police at the earliest opportunity and establish if there is any information regarding the alleged abuser's current contact with children, irrespective of the wishes of the victim as to whether a police prosecution should take place;
- Initiate a Child Protection Enquiry and Strategy Meeting if the alleged abuser is known to be currently caring for children or has access to children. This must include making a referral to Children's Social Care in the area where the alleged abuser is currently living.
Where an adult alleges abuse in childhood in a different Local Authority area, the case should be transferred to agencies in the area where the abuse is alleged to have taken place. Parallel enquiries may be needed if the alleged abuser has contact with children elsewhere. The co-ordinating Children's Social Care should be the one responsible for the geographical area where the abuse is alleged to have taken place.
Where the abuse is alleged in a former children's home or residential school, the responsible Children's Social Care should be the one relating to the Local Authority responsible for running the establishment concerned, irrespective of where the children's home or residential / boarding school is / was located. It is important that there is effective communication about roles and responsibilities between agencies in such circumstances. See Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure. Organised and complex abuse; and consult the Government guidance Complex Child Abuse Investigations: Inter-Agency Issues (Home Office and DH, 2002).
The responsible Police service for investigation will be the one covering the area where the alleged abuse is said to have taken place. Where the alleged abuse occurred abroad, and the offense is not within the British Police's jurisdiction, the Police can use their powers to ask the Police force in that country to undertake an investigation.