On Tuesday 26th March NSPCC Cymru facilitated a practitioner’s work shop around ‘Professionals breaking the silence, dealing with child disclosures of abuse’. They are launching their ‘Let children know you’re listening’ safeguarding resource for professionals, to help show children and young people that, when they want to share you’re ready to listen. 
The workshop began with a video outlining child disclosures. Attendees were encouraged to put themselves in the shoes of the professional dealing with a silent disclosure in the video, how would they feel?
•    “Anxious”
•    “Is it my role?”
•    “Is this the best time?”
•    “Panicking or worried about a lack of training”
•    “Fear of getting it wrong”
•    “Worried about opening a can of worms”

Next the group were asked to mark how confident they felt dealing with disclosure of abuse.

Reflections and discussion around what does or could make the group feel confident:

  • “Clear guidelines around the legislation and guidance on dealing with disclosures”
  • Feeling confident about the process to follow”
  • “Enough support at work”
  • “A professional support network”
  • “To spend time reflecting on practice to improve”
  • “Having the time to do it properly”
  • “Good supervision”
  • “Familiarity with current language young people and children are using”
  • “Confident verses competent”
  • “Training, role play or simulation of the whole process”

The NSPCC Wales team highlighted that there are multiple ways of defining what they call ‘disclosure’. Their definition includes all the ways that a child would start to share their experience with others. This could be either verbal or non-verbal and can be seen as more of a journey not as simply one act. Disclosures can be complicated and fragmented and not necessarily spoken. Disclosures can occur through a child’s behaviour. Finally a disclosure does not always lead to an ‘allegation’ of abuse.

Some key findings from previous research included:

  • Many children delay disclosing abuse, on average 7.8years
  • Barriers for disclosures of abuse include: Isolation, Emotional ties to perpetrator, Fear/anxiety of consequences, Lack of understanding of what categorises as abuse and No-one listened or asked the child
  • Young people often speak out in order to protect younger siblings from suffering the same abuse.
  • Friends, mothers and teachers are the most likely to encounter the initial disclosures of abuse from young people
  • On average, 90% of young people report either mixed or negative experiences of disclosing abuse. Only 10% report a broadly positive journey
  • Young people told NSPCC Cymru “Put yourself in our shoes”, “Don’t use negative body language” and “Listen to what we have to say” during disclosures of abuse

There is very little research looking at the process from professional’s perspective. This is what the NSPCC Wales set out to do. They have created a new resource ‘Let children know you’re listening’ considering disclosures of abuse from a professional’s point of view.

Three key insights that emerged from their project highlighted the importance of interpersonal skills.

1. Demonstrating your listening to children and young people 

2. Reassuring the child and showing empathy

3. Putting children/young people in charge of the conversation

To close the session delegates were tasked with identifying ways to embed the guidance into practice, using green plates to make suggestions and red plates to reflect on the barriers.

Suggestions of ways to embed these skills into practice included being child focuses, having resources or appropriate space and sharing good practice.

Suggestions of barriers included the urge to fill uncomfortable silences, time and work load.

Many thanks to Sarah Whitcombe-Hayes and Cecile Gwilym from NSPCC Cymru for sharing their work with us at this practitioner workshop.

More resources available in this area can be found on the links below.

Share Aware

Net Aware

NSPCC Learning Platform

Let children know you’re listening  

02 Parents Hub

Wild West Web campaign