Research by the Children’s Commission: ‘It takes a lot to build trust’ Recognition and Telling: Developing earlier routes to help for children and young people set out to:
- examine young people’s perceptions of abuse and neglect, and to explore their experiences of telling and getting help from both informal and formal sources.
- use this knowledge to make suggestions for practice that would improve access to support.
This research was prompted by a concern to improve access to protection and support for children and young people at risk of harm. The key findings are as follows:
- The ability of young people to recognise abuse and neglect was linked with increasing age. Recognition often starts with an emotional awareness that things are not right, before the child is able to articulate the problem to themselves or others.
- Young people most often came to the attention of services through their behaviour and demeanour rather than through explicitly disclosing abuse.
- It is important for professionals to notice signs and symptoms of children’s and young people’s distress at any age and not to rely unduly upon the child or young person to talk about their abuse. A significant risk of reliance on verbal telling is that a child’s silence or denial means that abuse is not pursued.
- However, if a trusted professional responds sensitively and shows concern for the child they may then begin to talk about underlying problems. Young people described how conversations prompted recognition and relationships of trust promoted telling and help.
- Young people were often actively weighing up the risks of telling, though sometimes the emotional impact of the abuse overrode the rational process. There are many barriers to telling for young people, including their past negative experiences of help, and the immediate supportive response of adults matters greatly for both immediate help and longer term benefit.
- Although friends were valued as sources of emotional support, young people were careful to whom they talked, fearing that friends would gossip about them, that it might be too much responsibility for a friend to shoulder, or wanting to visit friends to distract themselves, rather than to confide in them.
- Young people value professionals they can trust, who are effective, knowledgeable and available. Teachers and youth workers were found to be particularly important as people to tell and they and social workers were valued as being able to provide holistic support.
- Recognition may come as an end result of receiving help and talking things through
The report highlighted the importance of having professionals who are well educated in child protection and know how to recognise and respond to signs of abuse in the children they work with.
For a copy of the Children’s Commission report click here