Concerned about a child or young person?

If you have immediate concerns about a child's safety, call the Police on 999. If it isn’t an emergency but you need help fast, call the Police on 101. Visit our Report a concern page for more information.

Safeguarding Children: Information for the public

Types of abuse

Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting, by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger for example, via the internet. They may be abused by an adult or adults, or another child or children.

Emotional abuse

Is the persistent emotional maltreatment 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. It may include not giving the child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or ‘making fun’ of what they say or how they communicate. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying (including cyberbullying), causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.


Is the 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. Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:

• provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment);

• protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger;

• ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care-givers); or

• ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.

It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.

Physical Abuse

May involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces, illness in a child.

Sexual Abuse

Involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet). Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children. Visit for information about recognising Child Sexual Exploitation. You can also find further information in the below leaflet:

Understanding Child Sexual Exploitation - A guide for parents and carers

Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is also known as female circumcision or female genital cutting. FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.

Professionals who are concerned that a child may be at risk of FGM should visit our Professionals page for more information. Members of the public should report a concern if you are worried about a specific child.

More information on FGM can be found on the Bristol Against Violence and Abuse website, or download the below leaflets:

FGM leaflet

FGM and the law leaflet

Resources and links

Bristol City Council has a duty to ensure that every child is safe from harm and neglect and, where possible, brought up by their own family. The council’s Children and Young People’s Services has lead responsibility for carrying out this duty.

Safeguarding children is a multi-agency concern co-ordinated by the Bristol Safeguarding Children Board (BSCB), the local multi-agency partnership of education, health, police, social care and associated services.

It is possible that your child or children have been allocated a social worker due to issues relating to a child protection concern or to undertake an assessment of their needs. You may want to seek advice and support from an independent organisation such as the Family Rights Group or the NSPCC.

Family Rights Group


SEND Offer

The Findability resource contains information for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, and their families, including all schools and SEN schools in Bristol.


Free From Fear

Free From Fear is a film premiere, designed by young people, to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation among young people. The project was put forward by young people supported by Barnardo’s. The film features three spoken word performances on surviving sexual abuse through the viewpoint of the older self, giving strength to the younger self.

See the film here


Building the Bridge is the organisation that works to keep Bristol communities safe against radicalisation and extremism. This leaflet lets you know what help and information is available if you have concerns that someone may be vulnerable to radicalisation.

Keeping Bristol communities safe from radicalisation

Online Safety resources

Resources for children, young people and families regarding online grooming and exploitation can be found on Think You Know.

For more information, or to report online abuse visit the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Command.

Further information and resources for parents/carers can be found on Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation.

Barnardo’s BASE is a local specialist service for young people under 25 who have been sexually exploited. For more information on the help they provide, or to refer a case, please visit their site.

Keeping your child safer out of school

 Leaflet with advice for parents and carers on keeping children safe when using clubs, activities and tutors.

Download here

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Bristol City Council
Avon & Somerset Police