At NHS Richmond CCG we are supporting the recently launched 'together we can tackle child abuse' campaign, which is being led by the Department of Education (DoE). It provides a chance to help children in the borough who are being neglected or abused.
As the designated nurse for safeguarding children, I often receive calls from the general public who are concerned about children. It is heartening to know that people really want to make a difference to a child's life.
Never assume that child abuse wouldn't take place in your neighbourhood, it can happen anywhere. Last year, social workers worked with 909 children across the borough of Richmond.
People often feel anxious at alerting social services because of experiences they may have heard from others, or just because they are frightened that the children will be taken into care. These worries are understandable, but a child will only ever be removed if they are at risk of significant harm.
Recently, a Richmond resident called me because she was worried about how an adult was treating a little boy in school uniform at the bus stop. In this case, the new information, which played a crucial part in keeping this little boy safe, was one part of a bigger picture as significant concerns had already been noted.
Other examples of people I have spoken to include a bus driver who alerted the police to tell them a young teenager was riding on the night buses, a concerned neighbour got in touch because of the endless arguments she could hear coming from next door and a parent called because another mum was drunk whilst picking up her child from school.
In my experience, children and young people find it extremely difficult to ask for help and may be more subtle than just coming out with it. Changes in behaviour are one of the key signs of child abuse and very often they confide in friends and other mothers.
These children have a right to be heard. But unfortunately, one third of people who suspect child abuse, do nothing. They are worried about being wrong or think it's a one-off. I want to reassure you that you don't have to be absolutely certain about your suspicions.
If you have a feeling something is not right, please call Richmond Council's Single Point of Access Team on 020 8891 7969 from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, or 020 8770 5000 for out-of-hours calls.