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How can I help children and women experiencing abuse or neglect?

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Everyone who works with children and women must:

  • take individual responsibility for acting on disclosures and any suspicions they may have
  • not assume that someone else will act
  • know their responsibilities and their organisation's protocols around disclosures.

National advice and guidelines stress the importance of creating supportive environments where women and children can safely disclose their abuse.

Access to appropriate interpreting and language support services to assist disclosure is essential. Family or friends should never be used as a substitute.

Service managers and commissioners

Ensure that:

  • all staff are trained in issues around child abuse and neglect, gender-based violence and protocols for dealing with disclosures, information-sharing and ensuring safety and child protection
  • relevant information resources on supportive services are available in places where they can be safely accessed by women without the knowledge of their abusers
  • services are accessible and relevant to all women and consistent with public sector policy commitments.

Establishing referral pathways to specialist service providers and other sources of support for abused women and children, including voluntary sector agencies, is vital.

Please also see Responding to domestic abuse: a guide for health professionals (external link).

Midwives, GPs, practice nurses and health visitors

These disciplines are often a first point of contact and are in an excellent position to help.

Midwives, GPs, practice nurses and health visitors should:

  • make sure you are fully familiar with current guidelines on child protection and responding to gender-based violence
  • ensure all women under your care have opportunities to talk to you alone and in private
  • if you do not routinely ask about abuse but suspect it's happening, ask directly
  • make sure women understand the limits of confidentiality and your responsibility to act to keep everyone safe
  • keep supplies of information about supportive services and details of national and local helplines to hand.

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Voluntary sector workers and managers

Although aimed at healthcare professionals, useful guidance can be found within NHS guidelines on child protection and responding to gender-based violence.

In general, ensure that:

  • all staff are familiar with your organisation's policies and protocols for dealing with disclosures, information sharing and ensuring safety and child protection
  • information about supportive services and details of national and local helplines are available in places where women can access them safely and discretely
  • women have opportunities to talk to workers alone and in private
  • if abuse is suspected, the woman is asked directly about in a private, safe environment
  • workers are clear about the limits of confidentiality and their responsibility to act to keep everyone safe
  • early contact with a GP or midwife is encouraged.

Advice and guidelines on responding to abuse, neglect and gender-based violence (external links)

The National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland
Protocols, agreed good practices and links to useful tools for professionals for addressing child protection in Scotland.

NICE CG89 - When to suspect child maltreatment
Guidance for health professionals who are not specialists in child protection summarising alerting features to child protection concerns.

Care during the perinatal period for women who are victims of sexual abuse - Guidance for professionals
Short guidance and accompanying resources for maternity team practitioners from Health Improvement Scotland.

What health workers need to know about gender-based violence

Childhood Sexual Abuse. What health workers need to know.

Domestic Abuse. What health workers need to know.

Rape and Sexual Assault. What health workers need to know.

Responding to domestic abuse: a guide for health professionals
A comprehensive guide from the Department of Health.

A Refreshed Framework for Maternity Care in Scotland

A Pathway of Care for Vulnerable Families (0-3)

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