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​​Child protection - whose responsibility?​

Protecting children at risk of abuse and neglect is:

    • everyone’s responsibility​
    • a shared responsibility
    • the responsibility of every member of the dental team

Everyone's responsibility

    • ​​​it is a responsibility shared by all members of society​23​​
    • when any of us hear someting about a child that concerns us, we should report our concerns to someone who can help

A shared responsibility

    • it is a responsibility shared by many different groups of professionals

    • it is coordinated by a multi-agency Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB)

    • decisions about children are never taken by one individual but always shared by effective inter-agency working and team discussion

'…all agencies and professionals should work together to promote children’s welfare and protect them from abuse and neglect.’

Working Together to Safeguard Children, Department of Health et al (1999)​1

The responsibility of every member of the dental team

    • who may observe signs of child abuse and neglect, or hear something that causes them concern about a child

    • who are not responsible for making a diagnosis of child abuse or neglect, but must share concerns appropriately

    • who all share the responsibility, it is not just the dentist’s responsibility 2,3

    • who may not treat children themselves but, if they treat adults who are parents, they too need to be aware of these issues

Research has shown that many dentists feel unprepared for this role 5​​​. If we are to fulfil this responsibility, we will have to communicate, cooperate and support one another within our own teams, and learn to work with other agencies for the benefit of children​. 29,42,43,44,45

What the General Dental Council says


The General Dental Council’s Standards guidance (2013)2 clearly states that the dental team have an ethical obligation to:

    • take appropriate action if concerned about the possible abuse of a child

Find out about local procedures for the protection of children and vulnerable adults. You must follow these procedures if you suspect that a child or vulnerable adult may be at risk because of abuse or neglect.

Standards for the Dental Team, 8.5.2 p77

    • ensure that children are not at risk from members of our own profession and to take action to prevent this e.g. by safe staff recruitment

You must maintain appropriate boundaries in the relationships you have with patients. You must not take advantage of your position as a dental professional in your relationship with patients.

Standards for the Dental Team, 9.1.4 p82

What the Care Quality Commission says

​​​​​The Care Quality Commission inspects dental practices to ensure that quality and safety standards (2010)55,56 are met. Providers of dental services must comply with the regulations.

Ensure that g​overnment and local guidance about safeguarding people from abuse is accessible to all staff and put into practice.

Guidance about compliance (summary), Outcome 7, p18

What the Victoria Climbié Inquiry said

In his report of the inquiry into the tragic death of Victoria Climbié,4​ commenting on how similar events might be prevented in the future, Lord Laming said:

‘I am convinced that the answer lies in doing relatively straightforward things well. Adhering to this principle will have significant impact on the lives of vulnerable children’​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​