What action will be taken
Firstly, social work staff will make checks to see if a child or their family is known to them and a decision will be made whether or not to investigate the allegations further.
In the Highland area, allegations of child abuse are investigated jointly by social workers and police officers who have been specially trained. They are sympathetic to the fact that a child protection investigation can be worrying and upsetting for a family, but their first concern must be the welfare of the child.
As the person who first expressed concern, the police and social workers may wish to speak to you further. Perhaps you will be able to give a little more information which might be crucial to the protection of the child. Any help you can give will be appreciated by those involved.
Protecting the child
In the vast majority of cases, the child will be able to remain at home. Sometimes the child cannot be protected at home and steps must be taken to make sure the child is safe by taking him or her to stay with relatives or to a foster home or sometimes to hospital. This may only be for a short time.
Child protection plan meeting
If a child is believed to have been abused, or to be at risk of abuse, a meeting of professionals will take place to decide whether or not the child's name should be placed on the child protection register. This register makes sure that anyone dealing with the child knows that there have been worries about the child either being abused or being at risk from abuse.
Concerns about children can be referred to the children's reporter who must investigate and decide whether any action is necessary to protect the child. He may decide to take no action, or to offer the services of a social worker on a voluntary rather than compulsory basis. He may decide to refer the child to a children's hearing.
A children's hearing might decide that the child needs legal protection and, whilst they may well allow the child to remain at home, they may insist that a social worker visit regularly.
A hearing may also decide that a child should live somewhere else, perhaps with foster parents or relatives for a period, but will regularly check to see whether the child can be returned home.
Help and support can also be offered to the person believed to have harmed the child but, if there is evidence that a crime has been committed, the police will report the matter to the procurator fiscal who may decide to prosecute.