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Children in Specific Circumstances


This chapter outlines some specific considerations that apply to safeguarding children in a range of specific circumstances. Not all children in these circumstances will require safeguarding action by Children’s Social Care, but may require coordinated support from universal and targeted services, usually provided through the Common Assessment Framework and a delegated Lead Professional.


In May 2016, Section 1, Domestic Violence and Abuse, information was added with regards to controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships which is an offence (Serious Crime Act 2015). Also a new Section 6, Children and Young People at Risk of Violent Extremism and Radicalisation was added.


  1. Domestic Violence and Abuse
  2. Parental Drug and Alcohol Use
  3. Safeguarding Disabled Children
  4. Missing Children and Young People
  5. Children and Young People at Risk of Sexual Exploitation
  6. Children and Young People at Risk of Violent Extremism and Radicalisation
  7. Child Protection in Other Specific Circumstances

1. Domestic Violence and Abuse

Children may suffer both directly and indirectly if they live in a household where there is domestic violence and abuse. The impact is usually on every aspect of a child’s life and will vary according to the child’s resilience and the strengths and weaknesses of their particular circumstances.

Note: The Government definition of domestic violence and abuse includes those aged 16-17.

The definition is:

'Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological;
  • Physical;
  • Sexual;
  • Financial;
  • Emotional.

'Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.'

The definition includes so called 'honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

Controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships is an offence (Serious Crime Act 2015).

Controlling or coercive behaviour does not relate to a single incident, it is a purposeful pattern of behaviour which takes place over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another. Such behaviours might include:

  • Isolating a person from their friends and family;
  • Depriving them of their basic needs;
  • Monitoring their time;
  • Monitoring a person via online communication tools or using spyware;
  • Taking control over aspects of their everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep;
  • Depriving them of access to support services, such as specialist support or medical services;
  • Repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless;
  • Enforcing rules and activity which humiliate, degrade or dehumanise the victim;
  • Forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity such as shoplifting, neglect or abuse of children to encourage self-blame and prevent disclosure to authorities;
  • Financial abuse including control of finances, such as only allowing a person a punitive allowance;
  • Threats to hurt or kill;
  • Threats to a child;
  • Threats to reveal or publish private information (e.g. threatening to ‘out’ someone);
  • Assault;
  • Criminal damage (such as destruction of household goods);
  • Rape;
  • Preventing a person from having access to transport or from working.
For more information, see Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedure Manual, Domestic Violence and Abuse Safeguarding Practice Guidance which includes policy, practice guidance and tools for working with families where domestic violence and abuse is an issue.

2. Parental Drug and Alcohol Use

The use of drugs and alcohol by parents and carers may have a significant impact on the safety and wellbeing of children and it is essential that professionals, employees or volunteers in all agencies are able to identify when there is drug or alcohol use and undertake appropriate action to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children.

For more information, see Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedure Manual, Children of Parents who Misuse Substances Safeguarding Practice Guidance which supports practitioners working with families where parental substance use is a feature.

3. Safeguarding Disabled Children

The available evidence on the extent of abuse among disabled children suggests that disabled children are at increased risk of abuse, and that the presence of multiple disabilities appears to increase the risk of both abuse and neglect. The term “disabled children and young people” in this context is intended as a broad and inclusive term which may include any child or young person who has a physical, sensory or learning impairment or a significant health condition.

Disabled children may be especially vulnerable to abuse for a number of reasons:

  • Many disabled children are at an increased likelihood of being socially isolated with fewer outside contacts than non-disabled children;
  • Their dependency on parents and carers for practical assistance in daily living, including intimate personal care, increases their risk of exposure to abusive behaviour;
  • They may have speech, language and communication needs which may make it difficult to tell others what is happening;
  • They often do not have access to someone they can trust to disclose that they have been abused.

For more information, see Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedure Manual, Disabled Children Safeguarding Practice Guidance.

4. Missing Children and Young People

Children who are missing from home may be at risk of harm as a consequence of their need for food and shelter or from the people with whom they come into contact with. Risks can include physical harm, sexual exploitation, substance use and involvement in a range of other criminal activities. These risks apply whether the child is missing from their own family home or from a foster home or children’s home whilst being Looked After by the Local Authority.

The primary consideration for children who are missing from home is their safe recovery and welfare. Although some agencies/staff groups have specific responsibilities for missing children all agencies that provide a service to children have a responsibility to work together when a child goes missing.

For more information, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Safeguarding Children Boards have published Children Missing from Home and Care Joint Protocol.

The guidance also provides information on action to be taken in relation to children who are missing who are subject to a Child Protection Plan or Enquiries, are Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers or are not known to Children’s Social Care.

5. Children and Young People at Risk of Sexual Exploitation

The sexual exploitation of children and young people has been identified throughout the UK, in both rural and urban areas… It robs children of their childhood and can have a serious long-term impact on every aspect of their lives, health and education. It damages the lives of families and carers and can lead to family break-ups… Children who are sexually exploited are the victims of sexual abuse and should be safeguarded from further harm. Sexually exploited children should not be regarded as criminals and the primary law enforcement response must be directed at perpetrators who groom children for sexual exploitation.

Any child or young person may be at risk of sexual exploitation, regardless of their family background or other circumstances. This includes boys and young men as well as girls and young women. However, some groups are particularly vulnerable. These include children and young people who have a history of running away or of going missing from home, those with special needs, those in and leaving residential and foster care, migrant children, unaccompanied asylum seeking children, children who have disengaged from education and children who are abusing drugs and alcohol, and those involved in gangs. (Safeguarding Children and Young people from Sexual Exploitation, 2009).

For more information Nottinghamshire and Nottingham City Safeguarding Children Boards have developed interagency practice guidance in relation to "Child Sexual Exploitation" to support practitioners and frontline managers. (See Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation, Inter-agency Practice Guidance.)

6. Children and Young People at Risk of Violent Extremism and Radicalisation

Radicalisation is defined as the process by which people come to support terrorism and extremism and, in some cases, to then participate in terrorist groups.

Extremism is vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas” (HM Government Prevent Strategy 2011)

Since the publication of the Prevent Strategy, there has been an awareness of the specific need to safeguard children, young people and families from violent extremism. There have been attempts to radicalise vulnerable children and young people to hold extreme views including views justifying political, religious, sexist or racist violence, or to steer them into a rigid and narrow ideology that is intolerant of diversity and leaves them vulnerable to future radicalisation.

Keeping children safe from these risks is a safeguarding matter and should be approached in the same way as safeguarding children from other risks. Prevent, in the context of counter-terrorism is intervention before any criminal offence has been committed with the aim of preventing individuals or groups from committing crimes.

For more information see Nottinghamshire and Nottingham City Safeguarding Children Boards Procedure Manual, Safeguarding Children and Young People Against Radicalisation and Violent Extremism Safeguarding Practice Guidance.

7. Child Protection in Other Specific Circumstances

Nottinghamshire and Nottingham City Safeguarding Children Boards have also produced other Safeguarding Guides that can be accessed by clicking here.