Protecting children does not just fall to the police, social workers and professionals who work with them.
The responsibility for keeping children safe from harm is a collective one – we all have a part to play.
With that in mind, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has launched a unique new online training course.
It’s Your Call is geared towards tradesmen and women who often spend many hours, if not days, in people’s homes.
The 15-minute online course is designed to give them the knowledge and confidence to recognise possible signs of child abuse.
Covering all types of abuse, the training also provides them with guidance on who to tell if they have concerns about the well-being of a child.
Matt Forde, the national head of NSPCC Scotland, said: “We’re not asking people to spy on families.
“But when they see something, in their heart of hearts, they know isn’t right, we’re asking them to report it so that those families can get the help they need.
“The online course both informs and educates about the signs of abuse and neglect and what you should do if you have a gut feeling that something is not right.
“We’re not trying to turn plumbers or builders into social workers.
“But they do spend a lot of time in customers’ homes and it’s not an unlikely scenario that someone in that situation might gain an insight into a child’s life.
“People are often unsure whether they should report it. We would ask them to look at it from the child’s point of view – or their own child’s.
“The police and children’s services are not in the business of getting involved, willy-nilly, when they don’t need to.
“In the vast majority of cases, children are not removed from their homes but their families do get the help and support they need.
“Often, parents have their own pressures and have lost sight of their child’s needs.
“They’re overwhelmed with their own difficulties and have a strong instinct against asking for help.
“It’s very often a burden that is lifted when they get a chance to talk about something they have been struggling with on their own for far too long.”
On the flip side of that coin are children who are in imminent danger.
NSPCC Scotland asks the public to call its helpline – 0808 800 5000 – or the police immediately in the worst case scenarios.
Last year in Scotland, the NSPCC’s helpline referred 2012 calls and emails to local agencies such as the police or children’s services.
The majority were from people who were concerned a child was being neglected (905 referrals) followed by concerns about physical abuse (401 referrals), emotional abuse (335 referrals) and sexual abuse (265 referrals).
Matt said: “There has been increased traffic to our helpline.
“People are often unsure whether to report something – they really struggle with it.
“By calling the helpline, they can talk through their concerns and decide whether it’s something that needs to be taken forward.
“Our advice would be for people to consider if it was their child in that situation – better safe, than sorry.”
As the NSPCC relies on donations from the public to deliver its services in Scotland, the It’s Your Call online course does cost £19 for individual tradesmen, with package deals also available for employers.
But Matt is hopeful that it will become a success.
He said: “It’s very early days for the It’s Your Call training but we are hoping individuals and employers will take it up.
“We are not funded by the government – we raise all our own funding – so a fee is involved to cover the cost of delivering the training.
“But we hope people will agree it’s a small price to pay to help children who are potentially being abused or neglected.
“It’s about helping to give children a voice when they can’t speak out themselves.”
NSPCC Scotland prides itself on providing a voice for children but is also keen that young people, of all ages, are able to make their own voices heard too.
The charity holds special Speak Out, Stay Safe assemblies at primary schools in every local authority area in Scotland with that aim in mind.
Matt added: “We help children understand what abuse is and what to do if they are affected.
“We then go back two weeks later to find out what the children made of it and reinforce the message.
“Children often come to Childline when they are aged 12 and above, talking about things that have happened to them for years.
“So we wanted to deliver a programme for primary schools in the hope that children would start reporting issues earlier.
“Teachers have been very positive about the programme as it’s a topic they often struggle with too.”
The NSPCC is the leading children’s charity fighting to end child abuse and protect children at risk in the UK and Channel Islands.
Voluntary donations make up around 90 per cent of its funding.
Childline open 24 hours a day
The NSPCC’s Childline service has two bases in Scotland, in Aberdeen and Glasgow.
In 2017/18, Childline volunteers delivered almost 280,000 counselling sessions to children and young people across the UK on the phone and online.
Based on the population of Aberdeenshire, it is estimated that volunteers delivered around 1800 counselling sessions to children living in that area last year alone.
Some of them are going through the toughest times of their lives. They face issues such as mental/emotional health, family relationships and bullying.
So it’s vital that they have somewhere to turn. Childline – 0800 11 11 and www.childline.org.uk – is there for them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
On average, a child somewhere in the UK contacts Childline every 25 seconds.
NSPCC Scotland’s Speak Out Stay Safe (SOSS) service, which helps children learn how to recognise abuse, has now been delivered in the majority of our mainstream primary schools.
Sadly, in the average primary school class, at least two children have suffered abuse or neglect.
Just £4 pays for a child’s call or contact with Childline and £3 pays for the SOSS programme to reach a child.
But the NSPCC relies on donations from the public to provide its services across the UK and volunteers to help deliver them.
To find out how you can help the charity or to make a donation, visit the website https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-you-can-do.