The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have produced guideline information for teachers, police officers, nursery staff and other professionals. The guidelines show what the “soft” signs are that may indicate that a child is being abused or neglected.

NICE was asked by the Department for Education and the Department of Health to produce this information for professionals working with children across a range of professions including social care, schools, early year’s settings, medical centres or custodial settings. These guidelines should help adults working with children to be more alert to abuse and neglect if they think that a child displays behaviours that are not normal for the child or for their age.

Signs may include Low self-esteem; wetting and soiling; recurrent nightmares; aggressive behaviour; withdrawing communication; excessive clinginess; low self-esteem; habitual body rocking; persistently seeking attention or over-friendliness towards strangers.

Dr Danya Glaser, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and member of the NICE guideline development committee said: “It’s probably a mixture of instinct and experience. It’s about [noticing] some change in behaviour if you know the child. We are saying err on the side of curiosity – it might be nothing but it might be something.”

Prof Corinne May-Chahal, chairwoman of the committee developing the guidelines, “The guideline gives examples of soft signs, the behaviours or emotions a child is exhibiting, which could indicate something may be wrong. These may not always be proof of abuse or neglect taking place, but they underline when to check on a child’s wellbeing.” She said the guidance would help professionals to focus on what help could be provided to the children.

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