Questions to curb abuse

18th September 1998 at 01:00
A NEW system to help child protection teams bring together the diverse danger signs of abuse is launched today.

The Bridge childcare charity says crucial signs are missed because people holding the information fail to see its importance.

It has developed BridgeALERT to give child protection teams a checklist of questions that must be asked of social workers, teachers, health workers, probation officers, police and others dealing with families.

It was sparked by the charity's involvement in inquiries into fatal cases of child abuse.

It found that often information existed - mental health histories held by GPs, children's behaviour known to teachers, criminal records - which when pooled might have revealed the potential danger.

In one case of a child who suffered a broken leg and was later killed, police were asked if the father had any relevant convictions. They said no - despite a string of sentences for assault.

"The police clearly thought that because the assaults were on adults they were not relevant. We are trying to draw that information into the child protection arena," Mr Fitzgerald said.

The questionnaire asks about levels of social support for families, and whether carers were abused themselves or have histories of violence, drug abuse or mental problems.

Even professionals underestimate the problem. "Their perception is maybe half a dozen die each year because that's how many they read about. In fact it's more than 100," Mr Fitzgerald said.

For 'BridgeALERT' and the allied book 'Dangerous Care', contact The Bridge, First floor, 34 Upper Street, London N1 0PN.

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