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Worried about a child (child protection)

If you see behaviour that is of concern, or if a child or young person tells you something worrying, you need to do something about it and speak to someone.

You can speak to a teacher, health visitor, social worker or police officer. However, if you think a child has been harmed, telephone the Social Work Contact Centre on 03451 55 15 03, from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Out-with these hours, please call them on 03451 55 00 99.

You can call the police on telephone number 101, 24/7.

If you consider a child(ren) or young person to be in immediate danger,

Do not wait, call the Police on 999

What to say

Explain exactly what you have seen, heard or been told and what it was that concerned you.

If you can, keep a note of dates, injuries and the exact words used.  These will help you give as much information as you can about the child or young person and their family/carer.

Let the person know if there are other things they should be aware of, for example, immediate risks for the child or any other child.

Will you need to give your name?  

You can ask to remain anonymous but any information about you will be treated with care. Any details, including your name, will not be revealed unless the child's safety requires it.  Even if you do not give your name, enquiries can still be made into the child's care and welfare. Withholding your name may make it more difficult for those looking into these concerns.

What will happen to the child or young person and their family?

When you contact a professional about your concern, unless the child is in immediate danger, they will make some initial enquiries before taking action. They will check whether the child is known to them and what information is held. All information will be treated seriously and acted upon as appropriate. This may lead to immediate action or a more planned response.

Should you mind your own business?

Many people do not tell because they fear that:

  • the child will be at further risk of harm
  • that nothing will be done
  • the child would be taken away
  • the family may find out who reported them
  • telling may ruin family relationships.

In reality, it is best for everyone that action is taken early to identify any abuse before it gets worse.  Long-term abuse is much more likely to cause problems for a child as they get older.  Even if you think an incident is just a one off, other professional agencies may already have concerns about the child. In Scotland it is everyone’s job to make sure children are OK.

Worried about someone aged 16 or over?

Adults (including young adults aged 16 or over) who are being harmed physically, financially, psychologically, sexually or who are at risk of neglect (including self-harm) should also be protected.

Please click here for the Adult Protection pages, for more information on recognising and reporting adults at risk of harm.

Domestic Abuse – There’s No Excuse!

As many as 1 in 5 women in Scotland will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. This affects children and young people too. Anyone who needs to talk to someone about this should visit the Scottish Domestic Abuse website or call their Helpline free on 0800 027 1234.

Free disclosure checks for voluntary groups

The Disclosure Scotland provides free disclosures (police checks), for volunteers in the voluntary sector who are working with children, young people and vulnerable adults at risk. To find out if your voluntary organisation can access this free service on The Disclosure Scotland website.

On 28 February 2011, the Scottish Government introduced a new membership scheme to replace and improve upon the current disclosure arrangements for people who work with vulnerable groups. This is called the Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme (PVG Scheme).