Reporting child abuse

Myths and barriers

If you are unsure about reporting your concerns about a child or children, we can help you reach the right decision. People often have reservations when it comes to reporting child abuse: perhaps they think they are overreacting, it is none of their business, or they might not know what ‘abuse’ really means.
A third of people who suspect child abuse, do nothing. This page looks at the common myths around reporting child abuse and neglect, and the facts that you need to know. For more information, you can also see what to look out for when thinking about reporting something.

If we remove the barriers to reporting child abuse, we can tackle it together.

Myths and facts

Myth: Reporting a child/family to the social services means the child will be removed from their family immediately by social workers.

Fact: The decision to ‘remove’ children from families ultimately rests with the courts, so this not likely to happen, especially after just one phone call.

Social workers protect vulnerable children and provide support to families in need of assistance. Sharing your concerns with a local authority means they spot a problem sooner, and can take action to help the child and the family concerned.

Myth: It’s only child abuse if there’s physical or sexual violence

Fact: You might be surprised to see what counts as ‘abuse’. Last year, the majority of reported child abuse cases related to emotional abuse and neglect. By comparison, physical and sexual violence makes up about 15 per cent of abuse cases. However, many children and young people are likely to experience more than one type of abuse.

All types of abuse must be taken extremely seriously. Please visit our page on what to look out for if you think you’ve spotted something.

Myth: People will know it’s me that reported something

Fact: If you report to our children’s social care team, you have the option to keep your details private when you’re asked for them.

Myth: It’s not my job to report child abuse – that’s for teachers or professionals to handle

Fact: Not at all – we all have a role and responsibility to keep children safe from harm.

An abused child wants the opportunity to be heard, but it is up to adults to spot the signs, notice if something is troubling them, and act on their concerns. Remember, one in three people who suspect child abuse decide not to report it.

You must not worry about being wrong, nor do you have to be 100 per cent certain about your suspicions. If you have a feeling that something’s not right, talk to your local children’s social care team who can look into it.

Myth: Child abuse doesn't happen in my neighbourhood, I live in a nice area

Fact: Whatever their background, age, gender, race or sexuality or wherever they live, any child or young person could be abused or neglected. Child abuse and neglect can occur anywhere.

Myth: It's best to wait until you’re absolutely certain you have firm evidence before reporting child abuse

Fact: You do not have to be absolutely certain about your suspicions.

If you have a feeling that something’s not right, talk to your local children’s social care team. It is their job to look into these matters and investigate any and all types of abuse – they are professionals who can effectively determine if abuse or mistreatment is taking place. Many people still decide not to report abuse if they have suspected something and your call could save a child from abuse, maltreatment or exploitation.

Myth: If the child doesn't tell someone about the abuse taking place it cannot be that serious

Fact: Not necessarily – often, a child might not realise it is being abused or mistreated as they do not know any better. Abuse varies in type and severity, but any type of abuse should be taken extremely seriously. 

Research indicates that children and young people suffering abuse may make multiple attempts to tell someone. However, talking about this is always very difficult. This research found that friends and mothers were by far the most common people who young people spoke to first.

Myth: Children are just attention seeking when they act up.

Fact: Changes in behaviour are one of the key signs that a child may be suffering from abuse or neglect.

Myth: Children have lots of adults they can turn to for help if they are being abused.

Fact: Children and young people find it extremely difficult to ask for help from anyone if they are being abused, even someone close to them. The most common barriers that stop them asking for help are:

  • fears and anxieties manipulated by the abuser
  • developmental barriers
  • emotional barriers and anxieties
  • having nobody to turn to: often young people feel isolated and decide not to trust anyone
  • nobody listened and nobody asked: lack of recognition of abuse by others
  • anxiety over the confidentiality of their information


If you have spotted something that concerns you, or has raised your suspicions, do not feel afraid to contact us.

If a child or children appears to be in immediate danger, please dial 999.