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What is abuse and neglect?

A person may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children & young people may be abused in a family, institutional or community setting; by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger.

Physical abuse: may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child, including by fabricating the symptoms of, or deliberately causing, ill health.

Emotional abuse: persistent emotional ill-treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person, age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children, causing children frequently to feel frightened, or the exploitation or corruption of children.

Sexual abuse: involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts.  They may include involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

Neglect: persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development, such as failing to provide adequate food, shelter & clothing, or neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.

Worried about a child or young person?

If you want to report any abuse or discuss concerns in relation to children and young people please contact:

In an emergency call the police on 999.