What is child abuse?

Child abuse is when anyone under 18 is being harmed or isn't being properly looked after. There are different forms of child abuse:

  • Physical abuse (when someone hurts a child on purpose)
  • Sexual abuse (when someone under the age of 16 is told, asked or forced to take part in sexual activities)
  • Emotional abuse (when a child is made to feel bad about themselves)
  • Neglect (when a child is not properly looked after)

Voluntary and community groups have a duty of care

People and organisations that work with children and young people have a moral and legal duty to care for the children they come into contact with. As organisations, we should work in a way that reduces the risk of harm to children and young people, and have clear procedures for dealing with reports of child protection. As staff and volunteers, we should take all reasonable steps to keep children safe, and understand what to do if we have concerns about the safety or welfare of a child.

Do you run a “risky group”?

A “risky” group might be well-intentioned and enthusiastic. But staff and volunteers don’t take child protection seriously, or don’t think about it at all. According to the Safe Network, risky groups might:

  • Have little or no supervision of children, staff or volunteers
  • Work in unsafe buildings or activity areas
  • Have no information for children about who to tell if they are worried or upset
  • Have no understanding of the way a child communicates, and may not give them the time or attention they need
  • Not allow parents or carers to get involved in activities, for example as a helper or accompanying adult
  • Recruit new volunteers or staff without any checks
  • Not have guidelines or procedures for dealing with concerns about children, or the behaviour of other volunteers or staff
  • Have an out-of-date child protection policy (or not have one at all).

On this website, you can find basic information and recommended sources of further support

The child protection pages on this website are an introduction to some of the things you should be thinking about if you or your organisation works with children and young people. This is a big subject, so you won’t find answers to all your questions, or detailed information on every topic. If you need more in-depth information, please read see our recommended sources of further support.


Voluntary Action Westminster is a registered charity (no. 1068824) and is registered as a company in England and Wales with company number 03518124.  Copyright Voluntary Action Westminster 2009

Developed by Third Sector Design