Torbay Safeguarding Children Board

Children can display harmful behaviours to themselves and others around them.

If you are worried about a child that is displaying harmful behaviours, it may be for a variety of reasons. Call 01803 208100 if you have a concern.

There are many warning signs that may indicate that someone is affected by bullying, either being bullied or bullying others. Recognising the warning signs is an important first step in taking action against bullying. Not all children who are bullied or are bullying others ask for help.

It is very important that agencies and workers try to eliminate bullying to ensure safeguarding of children in Devon. If you are working with a child who you believe is bullying others, you can find out more at Bullying UK or Beat Bullying. If your concerns are serious you should follow the Devon or Torbay referral procedure.

Domestic violence and abuse is not always committed by a parent or carer. If a child or young person is abusive towards another member of the family, a sibling, parent or relative, this is considered domestic abuse. The abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual or financial.

If you think a child you know is involved in domestic abuse, there may be many reasons behind their behaviour. For help and support in dealing with it you can speak to the National Domestic Violence Helpline or speak to the Torbay Domestic Abuse Service. If you have serious concerns, you should follow the Torbay referral process.

Alarmingly, children and young people are increasingly misusing alcohol and drugs. Consequences range from non-attendance and poor attainment at school, poor health, committing crime to support 'habits' and also increased risk of being a victim of violent crime and sexual exploitation.

In addition to this, many children and young people who live with substance misusing parents and carers are suffering its ill effects. They are often neglected, suffer from domestic violence and are at an increased risk of misusing alcohol and illegal drugs themselves.

If you think a child or young person that you are working with shows signs of drug or alcohol abuse, you can visit  Talk to Frank and Adfam.

Staff working in both probation and youth offending services have a crucial role to play, alongside other agencies, in protecting children and young people. They also have a key role in managing offenders who pose a risk to children and young people.

In Torbay, the Youth Justice Team is a multi-agency team working to reduce offending by young people. The team develop programmes of work with young people who have been referred by the police or are subject of court orders, to to address the risk factors that contribute to their offending.

The Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company CRC provides services aimed at rehabilitating people given community and custodial sentences and reducing re-offending rates. The CRC provides probation services to people assessed as being of medium and low risk of harm, who are subject to statutory supervision and rehabilitation.

The CRC will work alongside the National Probation Service (NPS), which will now focus on public protection and managing high risk cases in custody and the community.

Further reading

Children and young people who self-harm are not typically seeking attention or trying to commit suicide, but it can be a way for them to deal with overwhelming or distressing feelings and bring control into their lives.

Self-harm can involve a child cutting, burning, bruising, poisoning, scratching, hair-pulling or overdosing. Children and young people who show signs of self harm need support, love and understanding to help them stop.

If you have concerns about your own child or a child you know you can get help and advice from the NSPCC.

You can also visit Young Minds for more information.

Wherever a child has harmed another, all agencies must be aware of their responsibilities towards both children and multi agency management of both cases must reflect this. It is possible that the child with the identified harmful behaviour may pose a significant risk of harm to their siblings, other children and/or adults.

Harmful sexual behaviour involves one or more children engaging in sexual discussions or acts that are inappropriate for their age or stage of development. These can range from using sexually explicit words and phrases to full penetrative sex with other children or adults (Rich, 2011).

Communicating with children and young people about sexual activities can be an embarrassing experience for any parent or carer, but when they are displaying signs of sexually harmful behaviour it is essential to talk to them about their actions and seek help.

Problematic sexual behaviours are those where a child or young person has done something inappropriate and of a sexual nature to another. Before coming to a judgment, professionals need to consider:

  • The actual incident
  • The impact on the victim
  • The motive of the perpetrator
  • The level of remorse shown by the perpetrator
  • Whether the behaviour was one-off or is repeated

If you are concerned about a child you are working with you can find out more from the SWCPP.

When a suicide attempt occurs, it is important for workers to try to understand the chronology of events in a child or young person’s life which might explain why the attempt took place.

Incidence rates show that thoughts of suicide (suicide ideation) with intent and suicide attempts are more prevalent in vulnerable children. Children and young people who have experienced maltreatment or are at risk of maltreatment often experience many different problems and are unable to make positive connections with peers or others to help them build some sort of resilience.

Consideration should therefore always be given to whether child protection procedures should be followed and enquiries made under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 in relation to a child or young person who has attempted suicide. Find out more from the SWCPP.


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