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A quick guide for young people receiving support

Abuse or neglect of a child or young person is very serious and against the law.

If this has happened to you, it is really important you get the help and support you need. A guideline has been developed by NICE for people who work with children and young people to make sure they listen to your wishes and feelings and give you the best possible support.

This quick guide will help you understand what support you should expect.

Every child has the right to feel safe and have a happy childhood

What is child abuse and neglect?

Child abuse

Anything that someone does to cause harm to a child or young person.

It can include:

  • Physical abuse – such as hitting, punching, burning, kicking or using weapons.
  • Sexual abuse – forcing you to have sex; touching you or making you touch them. This type of abuse can also happen online and includes making you watch pornography or forcing you to send intimate pictures.
  • Emotional abuse – making you feel scared, worthless or unloved; ignoring you; controlling who you spend time with or where you go; constantly checking where you are or who you are with.


The ongoing failure to care properly for a child, for example not providing enough food, clothes or a safe place to live, or not getting medical care for you when you need it.

It is also about a lack of love, care or attention.

What does the guideline say?

The guideline helps people who work with young people understand how best to support you if you have been abused or neglected. This could be talking about what has happened or taking action to help you feel safe.

People working with children and young people should...

  •    Involve you in decisions about your life – your opinion should be
    taken into account.

  •    Find the right way to communicate – it’s ok to ask if you don’t understand something.

  •    Explain about confidentiality – when they may have to share information, what they will share and who with.

  •    Ask permission if they need to touch you (for example, to examine you) and explain what they are going to do.

  •    Give you a choice of different therapies and support.
  •    Tell you how to contact them, including out of hours, and check how you want them to contact you.

  •    Work with other organisations to make sure you don’t need to keep re-telling your story to different professionals.

  •    Write down, in your words, what you have talked about and get you to sign it – if you disagree with what they say, this should be written down too.

  •     Help your parents and carers.

  •    Share any reports and plans with you.

How you may feel…

Not everyone is affected in the same way but abuse can change your feelings and behaviour in the following ways:


icon of a face looking worried

Being afraid

crying face

Crying a lot

angry face

Feeling very angry

speech bubble with a cross (not talking)

Not feeling like talking

palm of hand in 'stop' motion

Wanting to keep control

storm cloud over person

Feeling suicidal

Other signs could include:

  • eating disorders or using drugs or alcohol
  • being dirty or not having enough clothes or food
  • hurting yourself
  • nightmares
  • being very affectionate with strangers
  • running away.

Remember that what happened was not your fault.

What difference can the right support make? 

A young person's story

Things were hard at home for a long time. I remember being scared all the time, and then I just kind of started to feel numb to everything. I skipped school, hung around with mates who were a bit older than me, anything to avoid being at home.


We had different social workers coming round over the years. I didn’t want to talk to them. What could they do? Would they even believe me? But there was this one woman who didn’t give up. She actually talked to me and didn’t treat me like a useless kid. She didn’t push me, we went step by step on my terms. She showed that she really cared, and she gave me different options – for the first time I actually felt like there could be some hope, that life didn’t have to always be like this.


She found help for my mum and little brother too. They go to a group to help them talk about what happened when my dad lived with us. And she spoke to my teachers so they understood why I was acting like I was. I do really want to learn, I just didn’t think I was worth bothering about. But now I know I am.


Abuse can make you feel helpless and as though you are totally under the control of another person. It’s really important that any help or support doesn’t take even more control away from you, but empowers you and helps you to make choices as well as helping other people to understand what you have been through.

What do I do now?

If you are finding it difficult to get support, you could get in touch with organisations like National Youth Advocacy Service,  or Help at Hand. They can make sure your views, feelings and wishes are heard and taken seriously, and help you get the services you are entitled to.

Who else could help me?

If you need help you can speak to an adult you trust. It may be a doctor, keyworker, teacher, social worker – and they should follow this guideline. There are also lots of organisations who specialise in helping children and young people affected by abuse and neglect.

You don’t have to live in silence, feel trapped or be alone any more.

Young people involved in developing this guide

Our voices are important

Young people involved in developing this guide


About this quick guide

This guide has been written by young people who have all experienced abuse or neglect. 15 young people from around the country were supported by AVA to help develop the NICE guideline on child abuse and neglect. They did this by talking about their experiences of seeking help and support, including sharing the challenges they faced as well as what worked well.

When the guideline was finished, they wanted to write a quick guide to help other young people find out what support they are entitled to. Two groups of young people worked with AVA again to design this guide, including agreeing which messages from the NICE guideline were most important to highlight.

They hope it will help others in similar situations get the help and support they need and deserve, and urge practitioners to share it with the young people they meet. 

Organisations supporting the young people involved in developing this quick guide:

AVA logo

                                The Limes college logo
YWHP logo

Download this guide

front cover of the quick guide

We've created a copy of this guide that you can print and share. 

Download (PDF print version)

  1. Select ‘double-sided - flip on the long edge’ on your printer’s settings menu.
  2. Print off both A4 pages and fold them in half so that:
    • pages 2 and 7 are on the inside and pages 1 and 8 are on the outside
    • pages 4 and 5 are on the inside and 3 and 6 are on the outside.
  3. Put pages 3, 4, 5 and 6 inside pages 1, 2, 7 and 8 so that the page numbers are in the right order.

This content has been co-produced by NICE and SCIE and is based on NICE’s guideline on child abuse and neglect. 

NICE logo

SCIE logo