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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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What effect can emotional abuse have on a child’s development?

The effect that emotional abuse has on a child’s emotional development varies.  It may have short and longer term effects.

Examples of how a child may be affected by emotional abuse include them suffering:

  • Loss of confidence and a lack of self esteem
  • Mental ill-health such as anxiety or depression or suicidal thoughts
  • Difficulties controlling anger
  • Difficulties forming relationships and trusting others.

What help can families get if they are struggling to keep their child emotionally safe and well?

A family who is starting to struggle to meet their child’s emotional needs can request help and support. Click on the drop downs below to find out more about two important ways this may be available.

Early help

Government statutory guidance called Working Together 2018 says practitioners working with families should be alert to families who may need early help services (see Working Together 2018, page 13 at paragraph 4).

Early help aims for agencies to work together to provide support as soon as problems emerge. This is because tackling a problem early can stop things getting worse. Education (schools, nurseries), housing, and health services are all examples of agencies. Early Help can be given to a family with a child up to age 18. So, the child may be a baby, toddler, at primary school or a teenager.

Social workers are not involved in early help assessments or providing early help services. But sometimes they ask early help services to provide assistance to children and families they are working with.

See our Early help page for more information.

Child in need

There is a general legal duty on children’s services departments to work to keep children safe, well cared for and, at home unless this would place them at risk. To help achieve this, children’s services must provide a range and level of services in their local area to help children ‘in need’. And to help their families (see section 17(1) of the Children Act 1989).

A child in need is a child who needs extra support or services to help them achieve or maintain ‘a reasonable standard of health or development’ (see section 17(1) of the Children Act 1989. All disabled children are classed as children in need.

Where a child or family may need this extra support, children’s services should carry out a child in need assessment. This aims to:

  • Work out if the child is in need or not
  • Decide whether the child is in need enough to get services in that local area
  • Find out what support and services may most help the child and their family.

Local children’s services departments have their own measures for deciding which children are in need enough to get services.

See our Child in need page for important information about how to request a child in need assessment and what is involved.

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