05 March 2018

Keeping children and young people safe from abuse Professor Corinne May-Chahal, chair of the NICE ‘Child abuse and neglect’ guideline committee

Professor May-Chahal explains how NICE guidance will help protect children and young people from abuse.

Though there has been growing awareness of child abuse and neglect over the last 3 decades, we must do more to prevent it and to ensure support for the children, young people and the families who are affected. To date, research has focused on why people abuse or neglect and the number of cases which have occurred. Very little research has looked at ways of preventing abuse or at what helps the victims after the abuse has taken place. The NICE guidance, which I helped develop, aims to bridge this gap.

For people whose work brings them into contact with children and young people, the guideline offers warning signs for spotting the signs of abuse and neglect, and advises how to respond. It gives effective advice on what assessments should be carried out, aiming to ensure children, young people and their families get the best quality care available.

To help raise awareness of the guideline and support people experiencing abuse and neglect we have also put together a quick guide for young people. The guide has been developed with the help of young people who have experienced abuse or neglect. 

Along with the guideline and the new quick guide, NICE has also produced a short quality standard that supports the steps commissioners should take to improve care. These resources can be found in one place on the NICE website.

Referral rates for children in need reached more than 640,000 last year. More than 50,000 children in England were placed on a child protection plan. More than 80% needed protection from neglect or emotional abuse, according to a report by the Department for Education. Also, the NSPCC found 18% of cases were re-referred in 2017, an indicator that some children are not getting the help they need.

Though I’ve enjoyed working with my fellow committee members to develop the guideline it was challenging at times to find evidence that met the high standards NICE sets. By working together with a range of organisations and agencies, we were able to develop recommendations, which if implemented sufficiently, will help protect vulnerable children across the country. Every child and young person has a right to have a childhood where they are cared for, nurtured and safe.

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