SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter outlines key points to consider when an adult makes a disclosure about abuse they experienced as a child under the age of 18 years.
In January 2017, minor amendments were made to Section 2, Action to be Taken by Professionals Receiving the Disclosure.
- Action to be Taken by Professionals Receiving the Disclosure
- Response from Police and Social Care
- The Needs of the Adult Survivor
Child abuse may relate to physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect and may have occurred at any point during the adult's childhood; there is no time limit on reporting these offences.
Practitioners working with adults should make clear at the outset of their involvement and at the time of any disclosure, circumstances where information may need to be shared, and that some types of information may need to be shared without consent. This is in line with current information sharing protocols and is particularly relevant to those in a therapeutic role.
An alleged perpetrator may continue to present a risk to children, and if the information is not shared, there is potential for children to remain at risk of harm and further abuse. It may also be the case that there are other historical victims.
2. Action to be Taken by Professionals Receiving the Disclosure
When an adult discloses that they were abused as a child, a referral should be made to Children's Social Care in the first instance once it is believed sufficient information or evidence is known to safeguard a child /children or vulnerable adult or to actively investigate an allegation. This may also include referrals where the adult wishes to remain anonymous. If the referral is also being made to the Police separately contact should be made via telephone number 101 to your local police force.
Whilst acknowledging that there are balances and challenges in supporting adults who make historical disclosures of abuse, decisions regarding referral to the Police must be taken in a timescale that protects children.
Specific information is required in order for Police and Children's Social Care to make an informed decision regarding further action. This includes:
- What has been disclosed and by whom; anonymous referrals will be received if this is the request of the disclosing adult;
- When the abuse occurred (and if possible over what period of time);
- Where did the abuse take place and were there any other victims;
- Who the perpetrator was (if the person will not name the perpetrator, try to establish the relationship, e.g. family member, teacher);
- If the alleged perpetrator of the abuse is still alive, and where they may have lived;
- The identity of any child who may currently be at risk, if known.
Try to avoid asking further leading questions or specific detail of the abuse. However, if the individual starts to speak in detail, let them finish telling their story. The practitioner should be careful to accurately record what is said to them and to discuss the matter with their manager; they may also wish to take advice from their designated lead for child protection and seek whatever support they feel they need.
The referral should be made to the police via 101, Police Officers at Central Referral Unit / Starting Point will pick up the referral and it will be dealt with in one of the following ways and appropriate referrals/actions taken:
- Where there is a known child at current risk – a Section 47 (see Child Protection Section 47 Enquiries Procedure) investigation will be needed;
- Where the alleged perpetrator is or was a professional – the Allegations against staff, carers and volunteers procedure (see Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure) should be followed;
- Where there are several unrelated children and/or more than one perpetrator – Investigating Complex (Organised or Multiple) Abuse Procedure should be followed;
- Where it is believed that children may be currently at risk but their identity is unknown there should be a strategy discussion/meeting (see Child Protection Section 47 Enquiries Procedure, Strategy Discussions / Meetings) with Social Care, Police and Health;
- A criminal investigation may be needed.
4. The Needs of the Adult Survivor
If the person making the disclosure is considered to be an Adult at Risk, advice and where appropriate a referral should be made to Adult Social Care, Adult Mental Health Services and/or local voluntary sector services for survivors support.
Police, Children's Social Care and the referring agency should agree who keeps the adult survivor informed of progress (where possible and appropriate) as they may have real anxieties about the consequences of their disclosure and may have concerns for their personal safety. If the decision is not to investigate there may be other avenues that the adult survivor may wish to explore.