Significant harm

Significant Harm ;, a term which came originally from the Children Act 1989, is the threshold that changes concern and monitoring into referral to another agency. It applies to children and to vulnerable adults.

You do not have to have proof that harm has taken place already, and you should not investigate - if you feel that something is happening that could lead to significant harm, this is grounds enough for referral to a specialist agency who will know what to do.
If you are worried about possible harm to a child or vulnerable adult, you should always seek advice. You can talk to your parish safeguarding co-ordinator in the first instance, or contact Rebecca Boswell Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser or Sarah King, Diocesan Safeguarding Officer who can help you decide whether or not a referral should be made. All agencies would rather spend time looking at something that does NOT require action, than missing something that does. You will not be blamed for making a mistaken judgement.
The Diocese of Ely is committed to working with other statutory and voluntary agencies to safeguard vulnerable children and adults in our communities. Remember, your trigger for action is a concern that something is going on that MIGHT lead to significant harm, even if that harm has not already happened.
The notes below are to help you identify what might be abusive behaviour towards children or vulnerable adults. But it is not an exhaustive list: if you are worried, even if it doesn ;t 'fit', TELL someone.

Working Together to Safeguard Children

Working Together 2013, the updated inter-agency guidance for safeguarding children, emphasises a co-ordinated, comprehensive assessment of a child who is believed to be at risk of significant harm. Voluntary agencies such as the Church are included in the Working Together ; Guidelines, and have a responsibility to work with the statutory agencies to safeguard vulnerable children. (NB in the Diocese of Ely, we also follow the core principles of Working Together ; in our care of vulnerable adults.)
Research has shown that children are best nurtured and protected when the three major domains that influence their development are working well, for example:

  • the child ;s individual developmental needs are being met (this includes the need to be safe from significant harm);
  • parents or carers are able to respond to the child ;s needs;
  • the influence of wider family, community and environmental circumstances is a positive one for nurturing the child.

In our safeguarding training in the Diocese of Ely we have always emphasised the need to seek advice if you are worried about a child, and not to try and investigate or work out whether the concerns you have fit ; the definitions of abuse ;.