Report Abuse Report Abuse

2.2 Children using Abusive Behaviour


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Key Principles
  3. Sexual Abuse
  4. Referral and Assessment
  5. Strategy Discussion
  6. Section 47 Enquiries
  7. Outcomes of Section 47 Enquiries - The Perpetrator Child
  8. Outcomes of Assessment/Section 47 Enquiries - The Victim Child
  9. Criminal Proceedings
  10. Post Conviction
  11. Concerns Regarding Sexually Inappropriate Behaviour by Younger Children
  12. Children Using Sexually Abusive Behaviour Meeting (CUSAB) Multi-agency Planning Meeting


1. Introduction

Children, particularly but not exclusively living away from home, are vulnerable to physical, sexual and emotional bullying and abuse by their peers. Such abuse should always be taken as seriously as abuse perpetrated by an adult. It should be the same safeguarding children procedures as apply in respect of any child who is suffering or at risk of suffering Significant Harm from an adverse source. A significant proportion of sex offences are committed by teenagers and, on occasion, such offences are committed by younger children. Staff and carers of children living away from home need clear guidance and training to identify the difference between consenting and abusive, and between appropriate and exploitative peer relationships. Staff should not dismiss some abusive sexual behaviour as "normal" between young people and should not develop high thresholds before taking action.

Children and young people who abuse others should be held responsible for their abusive behaviour, while being identified and responded to in a way that meets their needs as well as protecting others.

These procedures are written with particular reference to sexually abusive behaviour and concerns about sexually inappropriate behaviour. However, where there are serious child protection concerns as a result of non-sexual violence by a child or young person leading to actual or possible Significant Harm to others, these procedures should also be followed.


2. Key Principles

Three key principles should underpin all work with children who abuse others:

  • There should be a coordinated approach between the agencies within the Leicester Safeguarding Children Board and Leicestershire and Rutland Safeguarding Children Board;
  • The needs of  the children and young people should be considered separately from the needs of their victims;
  • An assessment should be carried out, appreciating that these children may have considerable unmet developmental needs as well as specific needs arising from their behaviour.

Children and young people may also abuse adults in need of safeguarding. In such circumstances refer to the Adults Social Care Team.

Please see Local Contacts for details of the Emergency Duty Team and Children and Adults Social Care.


3. Sexual Abuse

The definition of Sexual Abuse by children is the same as sexual abuse by adults. For more information see Allegations of Harm Arising from Under Age Sexual Activity Procedure.

Abusive/inappropriate behaviour is often characterised by a lack of true consent, the presence of a power imbalance and exploitation.

The boundary between what is abusive and what is part of normal childhood or youthful experimentation can be blurred. The ability of professionals to determine whether a child’s sexual behaviour is developmental, inappropriate or abusive will hinge around the related concepts of true consent, power imbalance and exploitation. This may include children who exhibit a range of sexually problematic behaviour such as indecent exposure, obscene telephone calls, fetishism, bestiality and sexual abuse against adults or children and downloading indecent images of children from the internet.

Developmental sexual activity encompasses those actions, which are to be expected from children as they move from infancy through to adulthood, developing an understanding of their physical, emotional and behavioural relationships with each other. Such sexual activity is essentially information gathering and experimentation characterised by mutuality and consent.

Sexual behaviour can be inappropriate socially, inappropriate to development or both. It is important to consider what negative effects the behaviour has on any of the parties involved and what concerns it raises about a child. It should be recognised that the behaviour may be motivated by information seeking but may cause significant upset, confusion physical damage etc. It may also be that the behaviour is acting out which may derive from other sexual situations which the child has been exposed to.

Abusive sexual activity is characterised by behaviour involving coercion, threats, aggression together with secrecy or where one participant relies on an unequal powerbase.

In relation to physical and emotional abuse by children and young people, see Bullying Procedure.


4. Referral and Assessment

Anyone who has a concern that a child might have been abused by another child and/or is displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour should refer their concerns to Children’s Social Care Services in accordance with the Referrals to Children’s Social Care Procedure. Allegations of peer abuse will be taken as seriously as allegations of abuse perpetrated by an adult. Children’s Social Care Services will discuss the concerns with the referrer and, based on an assessment, decide whether it is necessary to hold a Strategy Discussion and pursue a Section 47 Enquiry.

If uncertainty exists about the need for a referral, consultation with the local Safeguarding Unit and the Duty & Assessment Team is recommended.

Separate enquiries and investigations will be pursued in respect of the victim and the abuser.

Where relevant, assessments will be undertaken in relation to the alleged abuser in conjunction with the Youth Offending Team (YOT).

A different social worker should be allocated to the victim and to the child with the alleged abusive behaviour, even if they live in the same household, to ensure that both are supported through the process of the enquiry and that, in relation to both children, their needs are fully assessed.

It should be recognised that disclosure of sexually inappropriate behaviour or abusive behaviour by a child can be extremely distressing for parents and carers. The child and their family should always be advised of their right to seek legal advice and be supported through the process.

The Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit (CAIU) will always consult with Children's Social Care Services regarding cases that come to their notice in order to ensure that there is an assessment of the victim's needs and that in all cases, there is an assessment of the alleged abusing child's needs. Each child should be referred to the Children's Social Care Services Team responsible for their home address.

Children with sexually abusive behaviour who are returning to the community following a custodial sentence or time in secure accommodation also require consideration through this procedure.


5. Strategy Discussion

Children’s Social Care Services and the Police will convene a Strategy Discussion (usually a meeting) in relation to the alleged abusing child and the child victim where there is reasonable cause to suspect that the child concerned is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, for example because of concerns about the parents’ ability to protect the child victim from further abuse. This should be led by Children's Social Care. For more information see Strategy Discussions Procedure.

Where Strategy Discussions are required for both the child who is the alleged abuser and the child who is the victim, consideration should be given to the need to hold separate Strategy Discussions. 

Where separate Strategy Discussions are held, care must be taken to ensure that the appropriate professionals attend the right meeting in order to provide confidentiality for the children involved. For example, school representatives should only attend the meeting involving the pupil at their school. The Police officer and social workers who are conducting the enquiries should participate in both sets of Strategy Discussions.

Where a Strategy Discussion relates to an alleged abusing child who is over the age of 10, a representative from the Youth Offending Team must attend.

A representative from specialist services will attend Strategy Discussions in their area.

The Strategy Discussions must plan in detail the respective roles of those involved in the enquiries and ensure that the following objectives are met:

  • Information relevant to the protection and needs of the alleged victim is gathered;
  • Any criminal aspects of the alleged abuse are investigated;
  • Any information relevant to any abusive experiences and protection needs of the child who is the alleged abuser, is gathered;
  • Any information about the risks to self and others, including other children in the household, extended family, school, peer group or wider social network, is gathered.

Where there is suspicion that the child who is the alleged abuser is also a victim of abuse, the Strategy Discussion must decide the order in which interviews with the child will take place.

When a child is aged 10 or over and is alleged to have committed a criminal offence, agreement must be reached between the Police and Children's Social Care as to the most appropriate method for interview the child. It may be preferable to interview the child or young person as a potential victim of abuse.

If a child is to be interviewed as a victim of or witness to alleged abuse under the provisions of the Achieving Best Evidence Guidance and the child admits offences, these incidents should normally be the subject of a separate interview.

In complex situations where there are a number of victims and possible perpetrators, the Strategy Discussion should appoint a Strategic Management Group to co-ordinate the overall investigation. (See Complex (Organised or Multiple) Abuse Procedure).


6. Section 47 Enquiries

If it appears that either the alleged abusing child or the victim child is suffering or at risk of suffering Significant Harm, the Section 47 Enquiry Assessment process will be followed. Otherwise, consideration will be given to an assessment in accordance with the Assessment Protocol.

In these circumstances, relevant considerations include:

  • The nature and extent of the abusive behaviours and the impact on the victim;
  • The context of the abusive behaviours;
  • The age of the children involved;
  • The child’s development, and family and social circumstances;
  • Whether the alleged abusing child acknowledges the alleged behaviour;
  • Whether there are grounds to suspect that the perpetrator child has been abused or that adults have been involved in the development of the sexually harmful behaviour;
  • Both children’s needs for services; and
  • The risks the alleged abusing child poses to him/herself and others, including other children in the household, extended family, school, peer group or wider social network.

Following the assessment, a multi-agency meeting (CUSAB) should be convened and the following steps taken (with attendees see below) to develop:

  • A written risk management plan in relation to any child identified as at potential risk; including educational and accommodation arrangements both for the perpetrator child and the potential victim/s;
  • Appropriate arrangement for the continuation of the assessment and the need for any specialist assessment; and
  • How the services to be provided will be coordinated.

The meeting should identify the Lead Social Worker and review process with clear timescales.


7. Outcomes of Section 47 Enquiries - The Perpetrator Child

If the information gathered in the course of the Section 47 Enquiry suggests that the child who is suspected or alleged to have sexually abused is also a victim, or potential victim, of abuse including neglect, a Child Protection Conference must be convened. A representative from the Youth Offending Service (YOS) team and a representative from specialist services within Leicester City, Leicestershire and Rutland areas should be invited to the Initial Child Protection Conference.

If the child becomes the subject of a Child Protection Plan, the coordination of services will continue through the Core Group, which should address the child’s inappropriate behaviour, the potential risks the child poses to others as well as the concerns which resulted in the need for a Child Protection Plan.

Where the Child Protection Conference concludes that the child who is suspected or alleged to have sexually abused does not require a Child Protection Plan, consideration should be given to the need for services to address any sexually abusive behaviour and the inter-agency responsibility to manage any risks. In these circumstances, a multi-agency meeting must be convened by Children’s Social Care Services.

This should take place as early as possible after the Conference and should involve the Safeguarding Unit as chair, the social worker, the referring agency, the school (including sibling’s schools), health agencies as appropriate, a representative from the specialist services, the social worker co-ordinating work with the victim, the parent/carers and the child (subject to age and level of understanding).

The multi-agency meeting will develop the overall plan for the child including

  • A written risk management plan in relation to any child identified as at potential risk; including educational and accommodation arrangements;
  • Any future assessment, if required; and
  • How the services to be provided will be coordinated.

The meeting should identify the Lead Social Worker and review process with clear timescales.

Where there are no grounds for a Child Protection Conference, but concerns remain regarding the child’s sexually problematic behaviour, s/he will be considered as a Child in Need. In such cases, a multi-agency meeting should be convened to consider the risk management as in above paragraph.

The decision to end the involvement of any specialist services should be made on a multi-agency basis. Factors to consider in reaching this decision include:

  • The level of risk posed by the child to him or herself and others;
  • If the intended outcomes of the intervention have been achieved;
  • The capacity of the parents or care givers to respond appropriately to the child’s needs;
  • The need for provision of ongoing support to the child/family.

If the decision is reached by the Police and Children's Social Care Services that the alleged behaviour does not suggest concerns about sexual abuse or sexually inappropriate behaviour, and that, as such, there is no need for further enquiry, the details of the referral and the reasons for a decision of 'No further action' will be recorded.

A separate worker will normally be appointed for victim and abuser, even when they live within the same household.


8. Outcomes of Assessment/Section 47 Enquiries - The Victim Child

Where a Section 47 Enquiry in relation to a victim child concludes that the child may still be suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, an Initial Child Protection Conference must be convened to assess the risks and consider the need to safeguard the child through a Child Protection Plan.

In all cases, the child/ren may require services to support them through interviews in line with Achieving Best Evidence Guidance and through any court actions that may follow. The assessments undertaken may determine that there is a need for support services, such as counselling services whether the child is in need of safeguarding or a Child in Need. The child’s social worker should keep up to date with developments by communicating with the social worker for the alleged abusing child to ensure that the child victim remains safeguarded. 


9. Criminal Proceedings

When the alleged abusing child is over 10, the Police will consult other agencies including the Crown Prosecution Service to decide the most appropriate course of action within the criminal justice system.

In cases where criminal proceedings are taken against an alleged abusing child, the Youth Offending Service (YOS) should be added to the list of possible attendees at any meetings. Both the compilation of the YOS "ASSET" Profile and the preparation of an assessment will be facilitated through this.

When a case is going through the Youth Court or the Crown Court, the YOS will provide information for the assessment processes. This may include plea, bail conditions and variations between adjournments.

When the police do not reach the evidential threshold to charge a young person with an offence but concerns still exist, the care will continue to be managed by Children's Social Care through CUSAB meetings to ensure that the appropriate level of care, support and intervention is provided.


10. Post Conviction

Children with harmful sexual behaviour who are re-entering the community following a custodial sentence or time in secure accommodation will also require such an assessment/ intervention and risk management plan. This is also true for children with sexually abusive behaviour who move into the area from another authority.

The Youth Offending Service will carry out the statutory duties, in terms of supervising offenders, both in the community and in custody, as laid down by criminal justice legislation and the Children Act.


11. Concerns Regarding Sexually Inappropriate Behaviour by Younger Children

In the case of reports of inappropriate sexual behaviour by children under 10 years old, where Police intervention is not warranted, the above procedures can be simplified.

  • A Strategy Discussion will occur between social worker and team manager to check (see Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure) whether the reported behaviour suggests potential concerns;
  • If so, an enquiry will be initiated, including background checks (discussion with school/ nursery/ G.P./health visitor etc.), and interviews with the complainant, the child and their carers;
  • Where this enquiry raises concerns about the child as being a child in need of protection, a Child Protection Conference will be convened.

Where a child protection conference is not considered to be necessary, but the child is recognised as being a child in need requiring intervention beyond simple boundary work with the social worker, a CUSAB Meeting will be convened (see below).


12. Children Using Sexually Abusive Behaviour Meeting (CUSAB) Multi-agency Planning Meeting

Where there are no grounds for a child protection conference, but concerns remain regarding the child's sexually abusive or inappropriate behaviour, he/she will be considered as a Child in Need and a CUSAB Meeting will be convened by the Safeguarding Unit.

The purpose of such a meeting is to:

  • Bring together information. This should always include a Chronology of relevant behaviour;
  • Arrange for an assessment of risk and of the needs of the child;
  • Set a time-table for the assessment;
  • Establish an initial risk management plan;
  • Allocate roles;
  • Co-ordinate any other interim intervention.

In addition to those involved in the strategy meeting, those invited will include

  • Child Abuse Investigation Unit CAIU) (if invited);
  • The child;
  • The child's parent(s)/carer(s);
  • A representative from Health;
  • A representative from the child's school;
  • A representative from Children’s Social Care and / or non-statutory agencies, such as the Family Action (Leicestershire).

On completion of the assessment, the same forum will be reconvened to consider the outcome and to review and co-ordinate the risk management plan and the roles of the relevant agencies in providing any identified intervention. Such an intervention may include individual and/or group work, as well as ongoing support to the family or carers, and may need specialist input with regard to service users with special needs. Care will be taken to ensure services are culturally appropriate to the needs of the child and family.

The CUSAB risk management plan and intervention will be reviewed at a multi-agency meeting at intervals of no more than six months. At the point of closure of CUSAB work, the review will consider the possible need for long-term monitoring, which may be carried out by universal services; and the availability of advice and other services.

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