Reporting a child at risk of harm, abuse or neglect (safeguarding)

How to make a safeguarding referral and report a concern about a child or young person at risk of harm, abuse or neglect.

If you are concerned about an immediate risk to the safety of a child please call Customer First on 0808 800 4005.

In an emergency, call the Police on 999.

How to make a safeguarding referral

Guidance for professionals

If you would like to discuss whether or not a referral is required, please call the Professional Consultation Line on 03456 061 499 to speak with a MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub) social worker.

Information for professionals and members of the public

You can submit a multi-agency referral form (MARF) using the new secure Suffolk Children and Young People’s Portal.

Start a safeguarding referral

The first time you complete a referral you will be prompted to create a new portal account. Registering for an account is quick and easy, and you only need to do it once. To ensure the information you submit is secure, you will be required to log into your account every time you access the portal. Further support including a portal user guide and walk through videos are available on the portal overview page.

Contact social care services quickly and easily by webchat 

Did you know that questions about social care may be answered more quickly if you use webchat, available in the right hand corner of the screen? Open Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm excluding bank holidays.

It can sometimes be difficult to know what to do for the best. If you are worried that a child is being harmed, hurt or neglected, you may think that someone else already knows and everything will be alright. You might worry that by telling someone, you make matters worse for the child. Perhaps you’re concerned the family might be broken up and the children put in care (although actually, this rarely happens). You might think the problem will resolve itself. Or you may not know where to go for help. It might seem the easiest option is to do nothing. But please don’t. Trust your own judgement. It is important that you act.

Child abuse can take different forms. The main types of abuse are:

  • Neglect: can mean the persistent lack of essential care for a child including enough love, stimulation, safety, food, clothing, shelter, medical care or education. It can also mean leaving a child alone and at risk. Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. 
  • Emotional abuse: can mean repeatedly rejecting a child, constantly threatening or putting a child or young person down so that they feel unloved and worthless. It may involve the child seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another (like a parent or sibling being deliberately hurt in front of them). It may involve serious bullying (including cyber bullying), causing the child to feel frequently frightened or in danger, or it can also be the exploitation or corruption of children. 
  • Physical abuse: can mean any form of abuse which may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. 
  • Sexual abuse: can mean forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in any kind of sexual activity, whether or not they are aware of what is happening. It can include inappropriate touching, kissing or sexual intercourse. It can also involve causing a child to look at, or be involved, in pornographic material or videos, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet). Both women and men can commit acts of sexual abuse.

If you are worried that a child or young person is at risk of abuse or neglect, please make a referral using the new Suffolk Children and Young People's Portal. More details are on the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership children's website.

Read more information from NSPCC about preventing abuse and neglect.

The council has a legal duty to look into a child’s circumstances when somebody suspects abuse or neglect is occurring. A social worker usually does this job for us. The social worker will need you to give them relevant information so they can plan the best way of checking the child is safe and, if necessary, draw up plans for further action to help keep the child safe.

You should always report your concerns, even if the person you suspect is abusing or neglecting a child is your partner, or a member of your own family or someone you know well.

Not necessarily. Unless you are a professional who works with children or adults, you can request that we do not tell the child’s parents who contacted us. However, if we need to speak to you again for more information, we can only do this if we know your contact details (but we won’t share these with anyone without your permission), so it is important for us to know who you are.

If the person who is raising concerns about a child is a professional person, like a doctor or a teacher, we will tell the parent or carer.

After you have reported your concerns to children's social care by submitting a referral, a social worker will contact the parent or carer to find out if the information you gave us is true. They will check whether the family needs any help or support. They will also want to see the child and talk to the child alone (if they are old enough to understand).

If the social worker thinks the child is at risk, they will discuss with the parents what will need to happen to make them safe. If the social worker decides that the child is at risk of abuse or neglect, they will organise a child protection conference to draw up a plan of how to protect the child. The plan will involve the professionals who know the child, the child’s parents, and often their immediate family.

Our aim is to keep families together and we often succeed in doing this. There are some children each year who need to be separated from their parents to ensure they are kept safe. Usually these children return home once their care and safety can be guaranteed.

If a crime has been committed against a child, the police will also be involved.

They will work with the social worker and together decide the best way to keep the child safe from harm. Suffolk County Council children and young people’s services will always work closely with other agencies that work with the child and their family.

We believe it is very important to work together to protect children from harm and all these partner agencies work to the same procedures and guidelines, and keep in close contact.

You can find out more about how all the partner agencies work together to protect children on the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership children's website.

Many parents find it hard to cope at times.

If you ever feel that you may harm your own child you should talk to someone about it. You can contact Customer First or speak to a health visitor, your family doctor or any professional that you know. They will try to help you to sort out the problem. Remember, you won’t be the first person to feel this way and talking to someone can really help.

Some key tips about safe parenting:

  • Try to understand the seriousness and consequences of child abuse.
  • Learn about healthy child development and safe parenting.
  • Listen to your child – try to understand what they’re saying and doing, and why.
  • Know what goes on in your child’s world (such as their school, nursery, youth club) and how issues such as bullying are dealt with.
  • Find someone to turn to if you’re under stress.
  • Don’t cross the line and hurt your child. Take alternative actions – for example, “count to ten and think again”.

Contact Customer First on 0808 800 4005 if you're worried your own behaviour.

Read NSPCC advice for parents about bonding with your baby, coping with crying and keeping them safe.

Support for professionals

If you work with children or adults, please see the referral information on the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership children’s website. You can find advice on how to complete a Multi-Agency Referral form, often referred to as a MARF or MAR form, using the new secure Children and Young People’s Portal. Please also see the website for further information on making referrals to the Local Authority Designated Officers (LADO).

Professionals and paid carers working with children can contact the MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub) Professional Consultation Line and talk to a multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) social worker to discuss whether or not a referral is required. Telephone 03456 061499, available Monday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm, and on Fridays from 9am to 4:25pm. MASH are now also available via webchat which is available via the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership children's website.

If you are concerned about an adult and would like to make a referral or speak to MASH, please see the information on the Safeguarding Partnership adult's website.

Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 set in legislation that the three safeguarding partners (Local Authority, Chief Officer of Police, and Clinical Commissioning Groups) must work together with relevant agencies to safeguard and protect the welfare of all children up to the age of 18 in Suffolk.

All three partners have equal and joint responsibility for local safeguarding arrangements and the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership (SSP) is led by an Independent Chair Person, Anthony Douglas CBE.

This has now replaced the pre-existing legislation for Local Authorities to have Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs).

Adults at risk

Although there are no changes to the statutory requirement for Local Authorities to have a Safeguarding Adult Board and all the current guidance about the accountabilities of the SAB in the Care Act guidance remain, the Suffolk Safeguarding Adults Board will also come under the umbrella of Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership to maximise opportunities for joint working across Children and Adult Services and to ‘Think Family’.

Further information can be found on the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership website.