NICE advice to look for ‘soft’ signs of child abuse

Teachers, police officers, nursery staff and other professionals should look for “soft” signs that could indicate that a child is being abused or neglected, new guidelines suggest. Signs may include excessive clinginess, low self-esteem, recurrent nightmares or over-friendliness towards strangers. The draft guidance from NICE – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – is open for consultation. NICE’s deputy chief executive said it was “permission to be curious” NICE was asked by the Department for Education and the Department of Health to produce information for professionals working with children across a range of settings including social care, schools, early years settings, medical centres or custodial settings. It says adults working with children should be alert to abuse and neglect if a child displays behaviours that are not normal for the child or for their age. However, the guidelines say some signs are a matter of such concern that social services should be contacted straight away. These include a child regularly attending school unclean or with injuries, overtly sexual behaviours in children who are below the age of puberty, and parents using excessive physical punishment. Dr Danya Glaser, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and member of the NICE guideline development committee, said professionals should use their instinct and experience to make a judgement.  “It’s probably a mixture of instinct and experience

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