Reporting: What to do if harm or abuse is suspected or disclosed to you
Reporting is about immediately sharing appropriate information verbally, and later in writing, with the responsible people who need to know.
The Church’s key Safeguarding message is:
If you suspect or witness harm or abuse, or it is reported to you, you must immediately report it to your Safeguarding Coordinator or line manager.
If you are a Safeguarding Coordinator, and harm or abuse has been reported to you, contact the Safeguarding Service for written and verbal advice within 24 hours of receipt of the concern where possible.
If harm or abuse has happened, a crime has occurred or the person is in immediate danger, police or social work can be contacted first, and the Safeguarding Service after.
What to do if harm or abuse is disclosed to you
When harm or abuse is disclosed, your role is to start to gather the basic facts. It is not your role to investigate – that is the role of the police or social work in cases of suspected or reported abuse.
The disclosure may be sudden, with a lot of information provided. Or a statement may be made which just hints at an abusive situation.
The following is a guide to finding out more about the basic facts: what happened, to whom, where, when and who was involved.
- Listen to the child or adult at risk. Take what they say seriously.
- Reassure the person – tell them they have done the right thing by telling you
- Remain calm no matter how difficult it is and listen to what a child or adult at risk is saying
- Never promise confidentiality
- Only ask open questions to establish the basic facts. Do not continue to question or judge.
- Do not investigate – that is the role of social work or the police
- Tell the person what you are going to do next (unless to do so places them or others at risk of harm)
- Write down everything the child or adult at risk has told you, in their own words, as soon as possible after you have spoken with them. This is called recording (discussed later in the handbook).
- Report what you have heard or seen
- Keep what you have heard or seen confidential between yourself, the person and the person to whom you report your concerns.
What questions to ask - using open questions
Use ‘TED' open questions with TED representing questions such as: Tell me about…; Explain to me; Describe to me.
Use the 4WH questions: who, what, when, and where. For example, in response to a disclosure of alleged harm: ‘What happened?', ‘Who was there?', ‘When did that happen?', ‘Where did that happen?
Recording reported, suspected or witnessed harm or abuse
The following is general guidance about best practice in relation to recording information about an event where harm or abuse has been disclosed. Good recording is a critical part of the safeguarding agenda.
All records must:
- Be completed on the same day or within 24 hours
- Be written legibly or typed. If typed from your handwritten notes, keep those notes as in some serious cases they may be used as evidence.
- Be dated (day, month and year) and signed* by the person who received the disclosure (*with name printed along-side)
- Include a detailed description of the incident: what exactly happened, where, when, how, who was involved, names of witnesses, who reported and exactly what they said etc.
- Record the person's own words to describe their experience and views. If a referral is subsequently made to social work or the police this information will be needed.
- Use headings to assist with case recording to avoid long essay-style writing
- Stick to recording the facts and don't record opinions. Facts are supported by evidence. Opinions are subjective and are not backed up by evidence. The absence of supporting information means that opinions cannot be tested. They may wrongly become accepted as facts.
- Record the views and wishes of the child or adult at risk
- Record who you spoke or consulted with, when, what decisions were made by whom and the reasons for those decisions.
The written record should then be passed to your Safeguarding Coordinator.
Safeguarding Coordinators should refer to the Data Retention Guidance from the Law Department and Data Protection guidance for Safeguarding Coordinators for more information on the proper storage of these reports.