What is Safeguarding?

Safeguarding children and young people is everyone’s business. Safeguarding is more than child protection. Safeguarding begins with preventative activity which enables children and young people to grow up safely and securely in circumstances where their development and wellbeing is not adversely affected.

It includes support to families and early intervention to meet the needs of children and continues through to child protection, which refers specifically to the activity that is undertaken to protect individual children/young people who are suffering, or are likely to suffer harm.

‘Harm’ is defined as the ill treatment or impairment of health and development. There are no absolute criteria on which to rely when determining what constitutes significant harm. Consideration of the severity of ill-treatment may include the degree and the extent of physical harm, the duration and frequency of abuse and neglect, the extent of premeditation, and the presence or degree of threat.

Some children/young people live in family and social circumstances where their health and development are neglected. For them, it is the corrosiveness of long-term neglect, emotional, physical or sexual abuse that causes impairment to the extent of constituting significant harm.

Types of abuse

  • Child abuse

    Child abuse occurs when a child/young person is neglected, harmed or not provided with proper care. Children/young people may be abused in many settings, in a family, in an institution or community setting, by those known to them, or more rarely, by a stranger. There are different types of abuse and a child/young person may suffer more than one of them.

  • Physical abuse

    Physical Abuse is deliberately physically hurting a child. It might take a variety of different forms, including hitting, biting, pinching, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning or suffocating a child.

  • Sexual abuse

    Sexual Abuse occurs when others use and exploit children sexually for their own gratification or gain or the gratification of others.

  • Neglect

    Neglect is the failure to provide for a child/young person’s basic needs, whether it be adequate food, clothing, hygiene, supervision or shelter that is likely to result in the serious impairment of a child/young person’s health or development.

  • Emotional abuse

    Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child/young person. It is also sometimes called psychological abuse and it can have severe and persistent adverse effects on a child’s emotional development. Emotional abuse may involve deliberately telling a child that they are worthless, or unloved and inadequate.

  • Domestic abuse

    Domestic Abuse is any type of controlling, bullying, threatening or violent behaviour between people in a relationship. It also includes emotional, sexual, physical and financial abuse, and can seriously harm children and young people. Witnessing domestic abuse is child abuse in itself. Teenagers can also experience domestic abuse in their relationships.

If you have concerns that a child or young person is suffering abuse please contact your local Gateway Team or PSNI.

  • Belfast 028 9050 7000
  • South Eastern 0300 100 0300
  • Southern 0800 783 7745
  • Western 028 7131 4090
  • Northern 0300 1234 333

Police Service for Northern Ireland

  • PSNI Non-emergency 101
  • PSNI Emergency 999

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