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Durham County Council

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Child protection


Child protection procedures aim to protect and safeguard vulnerable children and young people at risk or suffering from physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

Everyone has a responsibility to help protect children. If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, please contact us - we will always take your concerns seriously.

Worried about a child?

If you have a concern about a child or young person who lives in County Durham, First Contact is the service to call.

Our Children's Services are responsible for delivering services to safeguard children. By law we must make enquiries about any child if we are told that there is a risk of harm to that child. We will ensure that children and families are fully involved in decision-making and planning throughout this process, unless this would place the child at immediate risk. 

We will also talk with other people who are involved with the child, such as doctors, teachers, health visitors, school nurses and the police. If there are any serious concerns, arrangements will be made for the child to have a Child Protection Plan. It is important to remember that most children who have a Child Protection Plan live at home with their families and are helped to do so with support.

Durham Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)

The Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) screen, gather, analyse and share information relating to referrals about children in County Durham who may be at risk of harm, or who need support services. This makes sure that all of the key information about a child and their family is shared at this critical time.

The MASH links with other key agencies who will be asked to provide information where necessary. 

Who works in the MASH?

The MASH includes:

  • a detective sergeant, detective constable and police support staff
  • health colleagues including a senior safeguarding nurse
  • social workers from Children's Services
  • Harbour (voluntary sector domestic abuse service) 

Other organisations will join the team in the coming months. 

Accommodation for children living away from home

Under the Children Act 1989, certain everyday words have a special meaning. Children may become 'looked after' by us. This means that we make arrangements for them to live away from home. This happens for a number of reasons. Some children are accommodated at their own request or at the request of their parents. Other children are looked after by other families (in care) subject to care orders made by courts in specified circumstances.

Before arranging for a child or young person to be looked after away from home, we:

  • Ensure that all other possibilities have been explored
  • Try to arrange for children under-12 to be looked after by foster carers rather than in children's homes
  • Try to keep brothers and sisters together
  • Place children as near to the family home as possible
  • Take into account the religious, cultural, health and educational needs of the child.

Children are generally 'looked after' by either fostering or living in a residential home.

Child protection in schools

We want every child to be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution, and achieve economic well-being. In our Child Protection Policy, we have strategies to promote and safeguard the welfare of children who are at risk, and those who are felt to be at risk, of significant harm.

We recognise that because of their day-to-day contact with individual children, teachers and other staff working in schools are particularly well placed to observe the outward signs of abuse, changes in behaviour, or failure to develop in a child or young person.

We acknowledge the need to support our schools and other staff in carrying out their responsibilities in connection with child protection. Our pupil services officers offer training in awareness-raising, procedures, risk assessment and policy to schools and service staff. In addition, they give support and guidance on individual cases where children may be considered to be at risk of significant harm.

Erase child sexual abuse

Child sexual exploitation is child abuse. It can have a damaging and long lasting impact on children, as well as their families. You can find information about sexual exploitation on the Erase website.

Child Protection Orders

Emergency Child Protection Orders (EPOs) are applied for by our solicitors on behalf of social workers, in emergency situations where a child is considered to be at immediate risk of harm. This is a statutory obligation which we must carry out on behalf of Children's Services.

Child Protection Orders can only be requested by members of our staff and must conform to statutory deadlines.  Court fees are payable for this service and we will pay these fees on submission of the application.