The Child Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit (CAISU) is responsible for investigating allegations of interfamilial child abuse, abuse committed by people in positions of trust and historical investigations into childhood abuse.
A typical week in the department involves responding to live child protection investigations, working with partner agencies to deal with risk, attending meetings to discuss safety planning and ensuring victims are supported. We respond to concerns from members of the public and other agencies and work closely with our partner services to ensure the voice of the child is listened to.
Monday saw the team deal with a variety of cases. Our first case of the day involved responding to a disclosure made by an 11-year-old girl that she had been sexually touched by her father. The girl had disclosed to school, who following national guidance informed Children’s Social Care which resulted in a detective constable and a social worker attending to speak to her.
The officer and social worker built a rapport with the girl and she felt able to tell them both what had been happening. The incidents happened a few years ago and she no longer sees the suspect so in that regard she was safe. Whilst the allegations were historical, the impact on the victim was clear and she will be offered ongoing support throughout the investigation by her case officer, the Victim and Witness Hub and Social Care.
That same day we also dealt with an incident where a five-year-old boy had alleged he had been kicked by his father and that he had witnessed ongoing domestic abuse between his parents. The effects of domestic abuse on children are very well documented and include emotional effects as well as physical risk. The child’s father had been arrested on suspicion of assault of the child and his mother.
A DC and a social worker visited the boy and engaged with him in a child friendly fashion where he told them fully what had happened and what he had witnessed. The voice of the child is extremely important and it was clear, even at his young age, what impact seeing violence in the family home had had on him.
On Tuesday officers dealt with a serious case of neglect. Two girls aged seven and nine disclosed to a teacher at school that they were regularly hit with belts by their parents. A DC and social worker were dispatched where the children were very open and disclosed persistent, ongoing beatings with belts. One of the children was described by school as withdrawn and lacked the ability to display emotion. This was also commented upon by the attending officer and social worker. Such was the risk to the children that the attending officer took the very unusual step of placing the children into police protection meaning they felt the only way to adequately safeguard them, was to remove them from their parents care. This case shows not only the physical harm that can be caused by over chastisement but the emotional impact as well.
Wednesday saw us deal with another neglect case this time concerning the home environment a child was living in. All children have a right to live in an environment in which their basic needs will be met and they are given an opportunity to thrive. The concern on this occasion was that the home environment was not suitable. The child often came to school in poorly fitting clothes which were dirty and appeared isolated from her peers all of which would impact on her emotional wellbeing. In such cases, it is important to assess the wider impact factors on the family and ask why the environment has reached the state it had. There were socioeconomic reasons why the house was in the state it was and on this occasion it was felt that a multiagency response to support the child and parents would have a far better long-term outcome than a criminal investigation. With support from the council and Social Care, the house was cleaned up, school assisted in providing discounted uniform and Social Care will provide support to ensure this positive change is maintained.
On Thursday, we responded to a case in which a nine-year-old boy disclosed at school that he had been smacked by his father. When spoken to by a DC and social worker, it quickly became apparent that whilst he did not like the smacking, the greater issue for him was the way he felt singled out in the family home. He articulated his thoughts and feelings and how this in turn affected his own behaviour. Upon speaking to his parents, they did not realise the way he was feeling and all agreed they needed some support to help them move forward as a family.
Friday tends to see an increase in work for us as a department. We attended two multi-agency meetings to discuss the highest risk cases in the county where each aspect of a child’s life is discussed, including their emotional and physical wellbeing, positive aspects as well as areas that require change. A safety plan is developed with an emphasis on what change is required of which all partner services have a duty to support.
The team also deals with historical allegations of abuse. We have a dedicated set of officers to deal with these investigations. This week we received a report from a victim reporting historical sexual abuse from the 1970’s. The case was allocated to a DC who contacted the victim with a view to explaining the investigation process and most importantly to offer advice on support available which resulted in a referral to the Victim and Witness Hub. Whilst the offences happened more than 30 years ago, safety of children now is paramount and so checks were conducted to ensure the alleged suspect does not have current access to children. If this is the case, then an urgent safeguarding assessment will be conducted by our colleagues in Children’s Social Care.
The voice of the child is extremely important, they have a right to feel safe and not be in fear. Any form of abuse will have an emotional impact on a child but this may not always be evident on first glance so we urge people to be aware of any subtle changes in a child’s behaviour and report this to a professional.
The CAISU Team