Parents & Carers
Welcome to Lewisham Parents & Carers pages
Welcome to the LSCB parent and carer pages. Here you will find key information about some of the safeguarding challenges facing children, young people and their parents today, along with links to support, advice and guidance on keeping them safe.
Getting help early
Children of any age can experience problems at times, and parents or carers can’t always meet their needs by themselves. When children do require some extra support it’s always best to put help in place before things worse.
Throughout your child’s life there are people around you can go to get advice, guidance and support, for example:
- Health Visitors, GPs
- Children’s Centres, nurseries
- Other workers you might be in contact with such as Youth Workers, PSCOs or Housing Officers
Go to the Family Information Service website for more information
If you are worried about the safety of a child go to the worried about a child page
If you are a parent of a child with a special educational need or disability you may find more information here
There are some national organisations that offer support for parents around specific safeguarding issues. You will find links to these in the relevant pages.
Supporting Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, Age 0-25
The Local Offer website is a collaboration between parents and carers of disabled children, young people and Lewisham Council to help you find what is available in the area for those with Special Education Needs or Disabilities (ages 0-25) and how to access a variety of services. These range from health, social care and education to respite, leisure facilities, support groups and the voluntary sector.
Private fostering involves an arrangement made without the involvement of the local authority between the carer and the child’s parent/s or person with parental responsibility, regardless of whether money is exchanged and that arrangement is intended to last 28 days or more (the child is not a Looked After Child). Please click here for more information.
Child Protection Conferences
Lewisham's Children's Social Care Pledge to Service Users
- We will always put your children's safety and welfare first.
- We will not get involved in your family's lives any more than we need to.
- We will be open, honest and fair in our work with you and your family.
- We will always be polite and treat you with respect.
- We will work closely with other agencies to give you better support.
- We will write to you about major decisions.
What is a Child Projection Conference?
There is nothing more important than the safety and well-being of our children. A Child Protection Conference is a meeting between families and professionals which is held when there is concern about the safety of a child within a family.
The new Child Protection Conference helps your family and caregivers to work with Lewisham’s Children’s Social Care and other services to keep your child safe.
Lewisham is using a new way of working with your family and your children. We have introduced a more family friendly approach to Child Protection Conferences to ensure the best possible outcomes for your children and your family.
The new Child protection Conference meeting known as Strengthening Families Child Protection Conference meetings will assess risk by looking at strengths in your family; looking at worries about your family; and make decisions about child safety.
The purpose of a Conference is to:
- Share information about your child’s health, safety and wellbeing.
- Assess whether your child is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm.
- Identify the strengths within your family.
- Identify any assistance needed by your family and professionals/agencies who might be able to provide this.
- Identify changes needed (if any) in order to ensure the safety of your child, which will be written down and given to you.
- Decide if your child needs to be subject to a Child Protection Plan.
A Child Protection Conference does not make decisions about legal or court action, or about where children should live.
As a parent, you are invited to attend the Conference and we would encourage you to take an active part. You may also bring someone with you as a supporter if you would like. This can be another family member, a friend, or some other person of your choice.
How can you prepare?
During the conference you will be given the chance to comment about what others are saying and to give your own information and views. You will also be asked what you think should happen in the future, including any help you feel is necessary.
Many families who have attended Conferences in the past tell us they were very nervous and didn’t say as much as they would like to. To help overcome this, it is sometimes helpful to do some preparation in advance.
We do not think it is fair that only professionals have the opportunity to provide a written report of what they want to say and parents do not get the same chance. You may write down the things you want the conference to know using the form provided. If you need help with this, please talk to the social worker.
Who else will be at the Conference?
Anyone who is able to support your child and your family can attend. This will include services and professionals who work with your child and your family. Everyone who attends the new conferences will have a chance to speak about:
- what is working well and;
- what is worrying them and;
- be involved in decisions about who might support your child who has been harmed, or is believed to be at risk of harm.
The Conference will be chaired by an Independent Chairperson. There will also be someone to take notes at the meeting.
A number of professionals will also be invited to the meeting, such as:
- Social Workers
- Health Visitors
- Attendance & Welfare Officers
- Probation Officers
- Professionals who have been involved with your family will be invited, but there may also be some individuals and agencies present, who you may not have met before. These individuals are invited because their expertise is required or because they may be able to assist you, your child, and your family.
Talking to children
It is important your child has an opportunity to talk about what they are worried about; what makes them happy; and what they would like to see happen in their family to keep them safe.
What happens at an Initial Conference?
The Independent Chairperson will meet with you just before the conference to welcome you, to explain how the Conference will run, and to talk about the best way for you to contribute to the discussion. The Chairperson will also ask you to tell us about the most significant people in your family and particular friends who help you to look after your children.
At the start of the Conference all the participants will introduce themselves, and the Chair will ask professionals to summarise the most important parts of their reports. You will be invited to contribute to this discussion. A plan will be developed with you and the professionals, after which a decision will be made about whether the risks to your child are significant enough that a Child Protection Plan is needed.
A Child Protection Plan is a list of actions with details of who is to carry out these actions and over what timescale.
You should come out of the Conference clear about what (if anything) needs to change. More detailed plans are usually made at a later meeting between you and the relevant professionals. This meeting is called the Core Group and usually happens immediately after the initial conference and as often as is needed afterwards.
It may mean that we do not make a Child Protection Plan for your child, but we will still try to help and support you, but the discussion will have identified assistance which may benefit your child, you and your family.
What can you expect from Children's Social Care?
They will work in partnership with you and your family. As a parent/carer, you should expect to:
- be listened to.
- be treated with respect.
- be kept informed and involved in decisions.
- get all the assistance and help that has been offered to you within the agreed time scales.
- receive a reliable service, with professionals doing what they say they will do.
- be absolutely clear about what we expect from you.
- receive copies of all reports 2 days before an initial Conference and 5 days before a Review Conference.
- get a copy of the Conference minutes within 20 working days of the Conference.
If you don’t feel we are meeting these standards, you should let us know.
What happens after the Conference?
After the Conference you will be sent a copy of the record of the conference.
If a Child Protection Plan is made, you will also be asked to attend regular meetings called ‘Core Groups’. At these meetings, you will look at the plan and discuss what progress has been made.
A Review Conference will be held after 3 months and then at 6 monthly intervals for as long as your child is subject of a Child Protection Plan.
My Report for the Conference
We recognise that it is not easy to remember everything you want to say. You can put your views in writing if you think that this will help. You do not have to do if you do not want to. The following questions may be helpful to you when thinking about what you do want to say.
- What is going well in the care of my children?
- What am I worried about ?
- This is what I think needs to change so that my children are safe and happy.
- This is what would be helpful to my family to make those changes.
If you have been told that you need to attend an “Initial child protection case conference” then the Parent Advocate Service could help you.
The Parent Advocate Service – a group of parents who volunteer their time to help other parents participate in the child protection process.
They will listen to you and help you understand what you can expect at the Conference. They can also attend the Conference with you to give you support.
“Parents know more about their family than any professional could possibly know, and well-founded
decisions about a child should draw upon this knowledge and understanding”
The aim of the Parent4Parent advocate service is to help parents to participate in the child protection process from an informed position and to promote good communication and a positive working relationship between the parents and the council.
The aim of the advocate is to:
- Talk to parents through the child protection process
- Attend an initial child protection case conference with parents and to give support
Who are they?
They are a group of parents who volunteer their time and are trained as parent advocates. They have worked with Children's Social Care with their own children and know they have a lot of support and knowledge to share with you.
What support can we offer?
They will listen to what you have to say, talk you through what you can expect when you attend the Initial Child Protection Case Conference, advise you on how to present yourself at the conference, as well as think about what you can do to work positively with the relevant professionals around your child’s needs.
The service is short-term and for the purpose of helping you prepare for, and be fully informed about the Initial Child Protection Conference. Lewisham Council also provide this service to support the parents at the conferences that follow, which are called Review Child Protection Conferences.
The service is independent from children’s social care, however they are organised and managed by staff within social care. They do not work with your children but are responsible for allocating families to advocates.
Everything you tell your advocate is in confidence. They will not share the information unless you ask them to, or give them permission to do so. However they do work within a child protection policy, which means they cannot keep your confidence if they become aware that there is, or could be, a child at risk.
What is the process of referral?
Once an Initial Child Protection Case Conference has been arranged for your child (or children) the social worker involved will ask you if you would like to be supported by an advocate.
- If you would like one, then a parent advocate will ring you to introduce themselves and arrange to meet with you which could be at the office or in an appropriate public area.
- At the first meeting they will listen to you and help you understand what is expected when you attend the Initial Child Protection Case Conference.
- If you would like them to attend they can support you at the Initial Child Protection Case Conference.
- The parent advocate will ring you a couple of days after the Initial Child Protection Case Conference to see if you would like to have a further opportunity to talk with them, which again could be at the office or in an appropriate public area.
- If you do not wish to meet with them at all, or again after the initial meeting, this will be the end of their involvement with you.
- If you have a complaint or any grievance specific to the Parent advocate, then you can contact one of the numbers noted at the bottom of this page with the issues or you can inform them that you wish to cease your involvement with the parent advocate.
For more information please
Text , phone or leave a message on: 07545 737611
Or Contact Lynn McShane (Advanced Practitioner) on: 07392191294
Keeping Information Safe
The information you are provided and held by agencies is highly confidential. The content of the information must not be copied or disclosed to any person other than the individual it is intended for, unless the information must be shared for the purpose it was given.
When in receipt of the information, please ensure it is protected and maintained securely.
When you are finished with the information please safely destroy it by cross cut shredding or secure disposal. Under no circumstances must the information be binned un-securely.
If you cannot dispose of the information in a secure manner please return the information to:-
Lewisham Children's Social Care Department, 1st Floor, Laurence House, 1 Catford Road, London SE26 4RU
Information must not be kept for longer than needed. If you have received it in error please contact Corporate Information on 020 8314 9928 or return it to the sender.
If you do not adhere to the above disclaimer you could be in breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 and therefore could face legal proceedings.
You can download and print the leaflet What is a Child Protection Conference?
Useful Link: London Child Protection Procedures
Domestic abuse is any incident of controlling, co-ercive, threatening behavior, violence or abuse:
- between people aged over 16
- who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members
It can happen to anyone, regardless of age, social background, gender, religion, sexuality or ethnicity, and can begin at any stage of the relationship.
Domestic abuse can be:
Domestic abuse can also include forced marriage and so-called “honour crimes”.
It’s abuse if your partner or a family member:
- puts you down, or attempts to undermine your self-esteem
- controls you, for example by stopping you seeing your friends and family
- is jealous and possessive, such as being suspicious of your friendships and conversations
- frightens you
Domestic abuse and safeguarding children
Children who live in families where there is domestic abuse can suffer serious long-term emotional and psychological effects. Even if they are not physically harmed or do not witness acts of violence, they can pick up on the tensions and harmful interactions between adults.
If you are worried about a child living in a family where domestic abuse may be an issue got to: What to do if you’re worried about the safety of a child
What is domestic violence
The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 defines domestic violence as ‘any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between adults who are, or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.’
Types of domestic violence
- Physical: being hit
- Sexual: rape, sexual assault, degrading treatment
- Financial: having money withheld or being forbidden from getting a job
- Social: not being allowed to see friends and family or go out
- Psychological: constantly telling someone they are worthless and so reducing their self-esteem and confidence
- Emotional: telling a person their children will be taken from them if they leave or that no one else will love them
How does domestic violence affect children
Children will learn their behaviour from examples set by other people around them and exposure to domestic violence teaches children negative things about people and their relationships. For instance:
- It teaches them that violence is acceptable and that they can use it
- They learn how to keep secrets
- They learn to mistrust those close to them
Being exposed to domestic violence can have a long-lasting effect on children which could affect their ability to form relationships in the future, including:
- Blaming themselves for the violence
- Feeling frightened
- Becoming withdrawn
- Running away
- Behavioural difficulties
- Problems with school
- Poor concentration
- Emotional turmoil
- Lack of respect
- Loss of self-confidence
Who to contact
POLICE: 101 or in an emergency 999
CHILDLINE: 0800 11 11
NSPCC: 0808 800 5000
PARENTLINE: 0808 800 2222
NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HELPLINE: 0808 2000 247
Private fostering is when a child or young person aged under 16 (or under 18 if they are disabled) is cared for and provided with accommodation for 28 days or more by an adult who is not a close relative.
A close relative is an aunt, uncle, step parent, grandparent or sibling, but not a cousin, great aunt/uncle or family friend.
A private fostering arrangement is normally organised between the parent and carer. There are many private fostering situations. These may involve children or young people:
- who are sent to this country for education or health care by their birth parents from overseas
- whose parents work or study long or antisocial hours
- who are living with a friend’s family as a result of parental separation, divorce or arguments at home
- who are living with their partner’s family.
What do I have to do if I am privately fostering or my child is privately fostered?
Any parent, private foster carer, or anyone else involved in making a private fostering arrangement, must notify the council for the area in which the child will be or is placed.
You have a responsibility to ensure that your child is in a suitable and safe private fostering arrangement that provides for your child’s cultural, religious, linguistic and other needs.
If you think that your child will be in this placement for 28 days or longer, you have a legal duty to tell the Council at least six weeks before the arrangement is due to start. If the arrangement is due to start within six weeks or is already in place, then you must tell the MASH team at the Council immediately.
The law states that you must tell us of a private fostering arrangement, this information will help us ensure that your child is well looked after and does not come to any harm.
A private fostering arrangement does not mean that you are giving up your rights to your child. This is a temporary arrangement and you still have parental responsibility and will continue to be involved in all decisions about your child’s life. It is very important that you stay in contact with your child as much as possible. By staying in contact, you will know of any changes in the circumstances of the carer (for example if they go on holiday or move house).
What if I already privately foster but did not know that it I had to tell the Council?
You should contact us and explain the situation. We will be pleased to take your details and explain the first stage of the assessment process. Please remember that if you are involved in a private fostering arrangement and you don’t notify us you are committing an offence, and could risk a fine.
If you are involved, or likely to be involved in a private fostering arrangement and have not already told, or if you are in any doubt as to whether the regulations might apply to you, you should seek advice from the Lewisham MASH team.
Why does the Council need to get involved?
We have a legal duty to ensure that your child is being looked after safely and that the arrangement is suitable for your child. We will make regular visits to your child and his or her private foster carer, and we can provide help and advice where necessary.
If the private foster carer is not giving you enough information or you are unhappy about the standard of care your child is receiving, then you should contact us as soon as possible. Together we will do our best to ensure that your child is safe and well looked after.
Phone Lewisham MASH team on telephone number 020 8314 9181 or 020 8314 6660 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
Private fostering referral and assessment team telephone number 020 8314 6523
Private Fostering Fact Sheet
Is Someone Else Looking After Your Child?
Are You Looking After Someone Else's Child?
Who is Looking After You?
Safe Sleep for Babies
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), or cot death, is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby where no cause is found. While SIDS is rare, it can still happen day or night and there are steps parents and carers can take to help reduce the chance of this tragedy occurring. The Lullaby Trust has many more resources, information and advice on their website. Below is a good portion of the advice provided by The Lullaby Trust
If you have any questions about SIDS or safer sleep, please call The Lullaby Trust information line on 0808 802 6869 (lines open Monday-Friday 10am-5pm).
Things you can do:
Sleeping your baby on their back
- Always place your baby on their back to sleep. Not on their front or side. Sleeping your baby on their back (known as the supine position) every night is one of the most protective actions you can take to ensure your baby is sleeping as safely as possible. There is substantial evidence from around the world to show that sleeping your baby on their back at the beginning of every sleep or nap (day and night) significantly reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- If your baby rolls onto their tummy? Once your baby can move themselves from their back to their front and back again by themselves, they will be able to find their own sleeping position. The first few times they roll onto their tummy, you might like to gently turn them back, but do not feel you have to get up all night to check. Give them some time to play on their tummy while they are awake to help their development, but make sure you supervise them while they are on their front.
- Some parents worry that by sleeping their baby on the back they will be at a greater risk of choking on their own vomit. However, no research has found this to be the case, and we now know that babies are far safer sleeping on their back.
- All babies should be slept on their backs unless there is medical advice saying something different. If your baby has reflux, or any other on-going health condition, speak to your doctor about the best care for them. You should not sleep your baby on their front unless you have been advised to do so by a medical professional.
- The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first 6 months is in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you.
- The chance of SIDS is lower when babies sleep in a separate cot in the same room as their parents.
Never sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby
- Sleeping on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby is one of the most high-risk situations for them.
- Studies have found that sharing a sofa or armchair with a baby whilst you both sleep is associated with an extremely high risk of SIDS. One study found that approximately one-sixth of infants in England and Wales who died of SIDS were found sleeping with an adult on a sofa.
- Make sure that you do not accidentally fall asleep with your baby on a sofa. If you think you might fall asleep, put the baby down in a safe place to sleep.
- If you are breastfeeding, have your partner stay up with you, breastfeed in a different position where you are confident you might not fall asleep, or feed the baby somewhere else.
- Sleeping on a sofa or armchair with your baby can increase the risk of SIDS by 50 times. Find out more here.
Co-sleeping with your baby
Some parents choose to bed share with their babies. This means that their baby shares the same bed with an adult for most of the night, and not just to be comforted or fed. Some parents also choose to sleep with their baby in other places.
When you should not co-sleep
It is important for you to know that there are some circumstances in which sharing a bed with your baby can be very dangerous.
Bed sharing increases the chance of SIDS and is particularly dangerous if:
- Either you or your partner smokes (even if you do not smoke in the bedroom)
- Either you or your partner has drunk alcohol or taken drugs (including medications that may make you drowsy)
- You are extremely tired
- Your baby was born premature (37 weeks or less)
- Your baby was born at a low weight (2.5kg or 5½ lbs or less)
You should never sleep together with your baby if any of the above points apply to you.
You must be especially careful when giving feeds that you are not in a position where you could both fall asleep in the bed together.
If you choose to bed-share
Parents may still choose to bed-share with their baby. If this is your choice, it is important that you are informed about how to minimise the risks.
If you choose to share a bed with your baby:
- Ensure there are no pillows, sheets, blankets or any other items in the bed with you that could obstruct your baby’s breathing or cause them to overheat. A high proportion of infants who die as a result of SIDS are found with their head covered by loose bedding.
- Follow all of our other safer sleep advice to reduce the risk of SIDS.
The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first 6 months is in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you.
Co-sleeping with your baby: FAQs
I am worried I might fall asleep in bed while I breastfeed my baby at night, is this ok?
Breastfeeding reduces the chance of SIDS, so we would always try and help you work out a way to continue breastfeeding in the safest way possible. If you feel you might fall asleep because you are lying down, it might be worth trying to feed in a sitting position or step outside of bed to breastfeed. Make sure you know the advice on when never to bed share so you know when to take particular care. However, it is really important that you do not accidentally fall asleep with your baby on a sofa. If you think you might fall asleep, put the baby down in a safe place to sleep. If you are breastfeeding, have your partner stay up with you, breastfeed in a different position where you are confident you might not fall asleep, or feed the baby somewhere else.
My baby won’t settle in their cot and only sleeps well in our bed, help!
Unfortunately there is no easy fix to a baby’s sleeping habits – but keep persevering! Babies can get used to different sleeping places but it can take a while. Try moving their cot close to your bed so you can still put your hand on them if needed and they know you are close by.
Do I need to bed share to breastfeed successfully?
There is no evidence to say that you need to bed share to breastfeed. For night feeds it is easy to bring your baby into bed to feed or settle, but they are safest then going back into their cot to sleep.
Do you advise against bed sharing?
We do not tell parents to never bed share. However, as a charity committed to reducing the number of babies dying from SIDS, we try to give parents the best advice we can, so they know the things they should never do, and what are the safest ways to look after their baby so they can make informed choices. The Lullaby Trust and the NHS, and many professional and parenting organisations all agree that the safest place for a baby to sleep is in their own cot or Moses basket in their parents’ bedroom until they are at least six months old.
Unicef baby friendly publications
The Lullaby Trust has worked with Unicef in the wording of two publications to support families and health professionals with the challenge of addressing co-sleeping, given the association with SIDS.
You might be interested in reading the two Unicef Baby Friendly publications, which are both endorsed by The Lullaby Trust:
The safest room temperature for babies
It is important to make sure that your baby is a comfortable temperature – not too hot or too cold. The chance of SIDS is higher in babies who get too hot.
A room temperature of 16-20°C – with light bedding or a lightweight, well-fitting baby sleep bag– is comfortable and safe for sleeping babies. Use a thermometer.
How to check if your baby is too hot or too cold
Every baby is different and our advice on room temperature is intended as a guide. So while it’s important to be informed about overheating, you need to check your baby regularly to see if they are too hot.
Feel your baby’s tummy or the back of their neck (your baby’s hands and feet will usually be cooler, which is normal). If your baby’s skin is hot or sweaty, remove one or more layers of bedclothes or bedding.
Why do babies who are unwell need fewer layers?
When babies feel unwell, with a cold or fever, they may be warmer than usual. It is important that you put fewer layers on an unwell baby so they have the opportunity to lower their body temperature – don’t feel tempted to wrap an unwell baby up more than usual.
If your baby shows signs of being significantly unwell you should seek medical advice. You may also find it helpful to use our Baby Check guide to monitor your baby’s symptoms.
Use a firm, flat and waterproof mattress in good condition
You should use a firm and flat mattress that is protected by a waterproof cover. This will help keep the mattress clean and dry, as the cover can be wiped down.
Make sure your baby’s mattress is in good condition and that it fits the Moses basket or cot properly.
Avoid using soft or bulky bedding
Firmly tucked in sheets and blankets (not above shoulder height) or a baby sleep bag are safe for a baby to sleep in. Be sure to remove any soft toys from the cot before each sleep period.
Sleep your baby in the feet-to-foot position and avoid using soft or bulky bedding such as quilts, pillows and duvets.
Pillows can increase the risk of SIDS
Pillow use alone has been shown to increase the chance of SIDS occurring by up to 2.5 times. If you were thinking of using a pillow with your baby due to concerns for plagiocephaly (or ‘flat head syndrome’). There are techniques you can use that could help plagiocephaly which will not increase the risk of SIDS.
We understand that plagiocephaly usually corrects itself within a year, but if you feel it is severe you may want to speak to your health professional or seek corrective treatment.
Find out more about The Lullaby Trust advice for a clear cot here.
We advise that babies have plenty of supervised tummy time in their waking hours to minimise time spent on their back, and you should also avoid letting babies sleep in harder contained sleep environments such as car seats and other travel systems.
Advice for using second-hand mattresses
It can be common to use a second-hand mattress either from friends and family, or from your previous children. There is some research that found an increased chance of SIDS when using a second-hand mattress brought in from outside of the family home, although the link is not yet proven.
To help reduce this risk, if you are using a second-hand mattress make sure the mattress you choose was previously completely protected by a waterproof cover, with no rips or tears and is in good condition. The mattress should also still be firm and flat to keep your baby sleeping safely.
Remove cot bumpers
Cot bumpers can pose the risk of an accident to your baby once they begin to roll and move about the cot. There have been a number of cases in the UK and abroad where infants have become entangled in the ties and material, or fallen from pulling themselves up on the bumpers.
A simple mattress in your cot with no loose bedding or bumpers is the safest sleeping place for a baby. Find out more about the Lullaby Trust advice on cot bumpers here.
Mattresses and bedding: FAQs
Our room is very small and we can only squeeze in a travel cot, is this safe?
The same ‘safer sleep’ rules apply to a travel cot, which should have a rigid frame and base, and a firm, flat mattress, covered in a waterproof material.
Travel cot mattresses are often thinner and feel harder than those in a permanent cot, but don’t be tempted to place folded blankets or a quilt under the baby to make them ‘more comfortable’.
If you are very tight for space, you may have to consider re-arranging the furniture in the room to ensure that the travel cot isn’t against a radiator, in direct sunlight, and is out of reach of blind cords and hazards.
We have been given a cot and mattress second-hand. Is it safe to use with our new baby?
Generally we would advise it is safest to have a new mattress for each baby, though we know this is not always possible.
There is some evidence to suggest that bringing in a mattress from another home might increase the risk of sudden infant death very slightly. When using your own mattress for a second (or more) time, ensure it is still firm and flat with no tears or holes, and is not sagging in places. Thoroughly clean the waterproof layer and ensure the mattress is clean and dry before making it up with fresh bed clothes.
Can I put my twin babies in the same cot to sleep?
The Lullaby Trust has no evidence that putting twins in the same cot, in the early months, places them at greater risk of sudden infant death.
However, there are some things you can do to increase safety:
- Never put twins together in a Moses basket or a small cot as they may overheat in the restricted space.
- If you chose to sleep them side by side in one cot, only do this in the early weeks, when there is no danger of them rolling towards or over each other.
- It is also an option, right from the start, to place them at opposite ends of the cot, each of them ‘feet to foot’. Each twin therefore has their own firmly tucked in bedclothes or baby sleeping bag.
- Do not use rolled towels, foam wedges, or other objects between their heads.
By the time the twins are big enough to roll over they should be moved into their own separate cots. All the safer sleep advice applicable to single babies should be followed whether the babies are in the cot together or not.
Is it okay for my baby to sleep in a car seat?
It is fine for your baby to fall asleep when they are in their car seat, but once you get home we would advise that you move your baby to their usual firm, flat surface to sleep. Our advice is that the safest place for your baby to sleep – both during the day for naps and during the night – is in a cot or Moses basket in a room with you for the first six months.
It is important to check on your baby regularly when they are asleep.
If your baby is being transported in a car, they should be carried in a properly designed and fitted car seat, facing backwards, and preferably be in sight of an adult. Be careful that your baby doesn’t get too hot and remove hats and outdoor coats when you get in the car.
On long car journeys, stop for breaks so your baby is not in the car seat for prolonged periods (some manufacturers recommend a maximum period of 2 hours in car seats).
Premature babies who may slump need particular care when travelling in a car seat.
Ask your car seat manufacturer if they have any safety advice about the specific model you are using.
Swaddling your baby
Some believe swaddling young babies can help them settle to sleep. Whilst we do not advise for or against swaddling, we do urge parents to follow the advice below.
If you decide to adopt swaddling, this should be done for each day and night time sleep as part of a regular routine:
- Use thin materials
- Do not swaddle above the shoulders
- Never put a swaddled baby to sleep on their front
- Do not swaddle too tight
- Check the baby’s temperature to ensure they do not get too hot
Using slings and baby-carriers
Slings and baby-carriers are useful for holding a baby hands-free, however they are not always used safely. Although there is no reliable evidence that slings are directly associated with SIDS, there have been a number of deaths worldwide where infants have suffered a fatal accident from the use of a sling. These accidents are particularly due to suffocation, and particularly in young infants.
The risk appears to be greatest when a baby’s airway is obstructed either by their chin resting on their chest or their mouth and nose being covered by a parent’s skin or clothing.
The safest baby carrier to use will keep the infant firmly in an upright position where a parent can always see their baby’s face, and ensure their airways are free. Complete guidance is available by visiting The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
A clear cot is a safe cot
Babies are at higher risk of SIDS if they have their heads covered, so it is safest to keep baby’s cot clear of any items such as bumpers, toys and loose bedding. Unnecessary items in a baby’s cot can also increase the risk of accidents.
Babies need just a few basic items for sleep: a firm flat surface and some bedding.
New parents now have a massive range of baby products to choose from and it can be really confusing to know what is needed. The Lullaby Trust advice is simple: the safest cot is a clear cot.
The Lullaby Trust advice on choosing sleeping products for your baby
There is evidence to suggest that babies are at higher risk of SIDS if they have their heads covered and some items added to a cot may increase the risk of head-covering. Unnecessary items in a baby’s cot can also increase the risk of accidents.
While evidence on individual items is not widely available, it makes sense to be as cautious as possible.
We therefore recommend babies are slept in cots or Moses baskets that are kept as clear as possible and specifically advise:
- No pillows or duvets;
- No cot bumpers;
- No soft toys;
- No loose bedding;
- No products (such as wedges or straps) that will keep your baby in one sleeping position.
Read more advice on how to choose sleeping products here.
No product can reduce the risk of SIDS
We cannot comment on individual products, but would advise parents to read the safety advice when making choices. Sadly there is no product that can reduce the chance of SIDS and we would advise parents to be cautious about any product that makes such a claim.
We also encourage parents to check that any product they buy has passed the necessary safety checks and follow the manufacturer’s care instructions that come with the product.
Reducing the risk of SIDS for premature babies
Babies who are born prematurely (before 37 weeks) or of low birth weight (under 2.5kgs) are particularly vulnerable and it is important that all the safe sleep advice is followed. Premature babies are sometimes slept on their front in hospital for special medical reasons. When they are getting ready to go home these babies should always sleep on their back to reduce the risk of sudden infant death.
For professionals we have a leaflet Time to Get Back to Sleep, which highlights the importance of back-sleeping, and addresses commonly asked questions on sleep position for these vulnerable babies.
To order these publications call 020 7802 3200.
What is sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)?
The sudden and unexpected death of a baby is usually referred to by professionals as ‘sudden unexpected death in infancy’ (SUDI) or ‘sudden unexpected death in childhood’ (SUDC), if the baby was over 12 months old. The death of a baby which is unexpected is also sometimes referred to as ‘sudden infant death’.
Some sudden and unexpected deaths can be explained by the post-mortem examination, revealing, for example, an unforeseen infection or metabolic disorder. Deaths that remain unexplained after the post-mortem are usually registered as ‘sudden infant death syndrome’ (SIDS) or SUDC in a child over 12 months. Sometimes other terms such as SUDI or ‘unascertained’ may be used.
While SIDS is rare, it can still happen and there are steps you can take to help reduce the risk for your baby.
What causes SIDS?
We do not know what causes SIDS. For many babies it is likely that a combination of factors affect them at a vulnerable stage of their development, which leads them to die suddenly and unexpectedly.
However, we do know you can significantly reduce the chance of SIDS occurring by following safer sleep advice.
What age babies are most at risk of SIDS? When does the risk decrease?
Around 89% of SIDS deaths happen when a baby is six months old or less.
To reduce the risk of SIDS for your baby, follow our evidence-based safer sleep advice –such as sleeping your baby on their back in a clear cot or Moses basket – for the first six months.
After this time, the risk is reduced, however SIDS can still happen so it is best to continue the safer sleep routines you have built up over time.
Does SIDS have any symptoms?
There is currently no evidence to suggest that any babies who have died from SIDS had any previous symptoms.
However, researchers around the world are currently engaged in a number of research projects that aim to find the underlying cause of SIDS and any factors that might suggest that a baby is at a higher risk. The conclusions of this research may lead to doctors being able to identify whether a baby is at a higher risk, and they could then work with the parents to decrease the risk for that baby.
Why don’t we use the term ‘cot death’?
‘Cot death’ was a term commonly used in the past to describe the sudden and unexpected death of an infant. It has largely been abandoned, due to its misleading suggestions that sudden infant death can only occur when a baby is asleep in their own cot, which we know to be untrue.
Is SIDS very common?
While SIDS is comparatively rare – 216 babies died of SIDS in the UK in 2015 – it can still happen and there are steps you can take to help reduce the chance of it occurring.
Can SIDS be prevented? What are the biggest risk factors?
While SIDS cannot be completely prevented, you can reduce the risks of it occurring considerably by following our safer sleep advice. For example:
- Sleep your baby on their back for all sleeps – day and night – as this can reduce the risk of SIDS by six times compared to sleeping them on their front.
- Share a room with your baby for the first six months – this can halve the risk of SIDS.
- Keep your baby smoke-free during pregnancy and after birth – this is one of the most protective things you can do for your baby. Around 60% of sudden infant deaths could be avoided if no baby was exposed to smoke during pregnancy or around the home.
- Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby as this can increase the risk of SIDS by 50 times.
- Do not co-sleep with your baby if you or your partner has been drinking, is a smoker, has been taking drugs or is extremely tired; these factors can put babies at an extremely high risk of SIDS when co-sleeping. One study found that the risk of SIDS when co-sleeping is six times higher in smokers than in non-smokers.
The above is especially important for babies who were born premature or of low birth weight, as these babies are at a higher risk of SIDS.
I’m worried about the risk of SIDS for my baby. Who can I speak to?
Our support team are here to answer your questions about SIDS or safer sleep for babies. You can ring our information line on 0808 802 6869 or email email@example.com.
You can also talk to your midwife or health visitor if you have any questions or concerns.
What research is being done to find out the cause of SIDS?
This is why research into the risk factors and causes of SIDS is needed and why we have been funding cutting-edge research into the causes and risk factors of SIDS since 1971.
If the cause of SIDS was found, health professionals might be able to identify which babies are most at risk and work with their parents and families to ensure they can reduce the risk factors as much as possible.
What can I do if I or someone I love has lost a baby to SIDS?
If your child has died, or someone close to you is bereaved, we are so sorry and we are here to offer our support.
Our confidential support services are here for anyone affected by the sudden and unexpected death of a baby or young child, whether the death was recent or many years ago. You can call our bereavement support helpline on 0808 802 6868 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about how we can support you here.
Self-harm & Suicide Ideation
Mental health problems affect around one in 10 children and young people . This includes depression, anxiety, and conduct disorder, and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives.
Self-harm is when someone hurts themselves on purpose and is a way of expressing deep distress, a way of communicating what cannot be put into words, with very difficult feelings that could build up inside. It is not attention seeking behaviour.
Self-Harm is a very common behaviour in young people and affects around one in 12 young people.
Warning signs of Self-Harm
- People who self-harm may suffer mood swings and become withdrawn.
- Unexplained wounds.
- Have a lack of motivation.
- There may be changes in their eating habits.
- They may cover up their body (even in warm weather).
Warning signs of Suicide Ideation
They may be:
- Quiet, brooding, or withdrawn.
- Feeling exhausted and distant.
- Feeling cut off from those around them.
- Not making eye contact.
- Agitated, irritable or rude.
- Talking about suicide or saying it’s all hopeless.
- Desperate for help but afraid to ask.
They may also:
- Be busy, chirpy, laughing and joking, talking about future plans, and telling you not to worry about them.
The safest way to know if someone is thinking about suicide is to ask them. If a person is suicidal the idea is already there. If they aren’t suicidal it won’t do any harm. Saying something is safer than saying nothing.
Risk Factors of Self-Harm & Suicide Ideation
- Stressful life events.
- Low self-esteem.
- On-going family relationship problems.
- Being bullied at school.
- Mental health problems – depression and delusional thoughts.
- Substance and alcohol misuse.
- Family circumstances.
- Stress and worry – academic pressure.
- Experience of abuse – physical, emotional, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and forced marriage.
- Feelings of being rejected in their lives.
Types of Self-Harm
- Cutting of the skin with objects (e.g. razor blades, scissors, pens, bottle tops etc.)
- Scratching the skin.
- Picking wounds or interfering with healing.
- Ingesting toxic substances.
- Excessive drug or alcohol intake.
- Hitting or punching themselves.
- Head banging or biting themselves.
- Pulling hair out.
- Swallowing or inserting objects.
- Taking an overdose.
- Staying in an abusive relationship.
- Taking risks too easily.
- Restricting their eating.Young people can self-harm in a variety of body locations, i.e. arms, legs, abdomen, etc.
Responding to Self-Harm in Lewisham
If a child or young person overdoses or there is a serious self-harm incidence they should be taken to A&E in the first instance. An assessment will be undertaken which may involve a referral to the Children & Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
If you become aware of a young person who is self-harming or having suicidal thoughts. Explore their feelings with them and talk about the help available:-
Share what you know with the child’s parents / carers.
Coping with Self-Harm
Guide for anyone working with children and young people.
Calm Harm App.
- Young Minds
- Parents Helpline 0808 802 55 44
- Advice for professionals
- GP – Make an appointment to talk about your concerns. Your child may need some support from the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)
- Online chat support for young people
- Work it Out Lewisham
- Information on services and support available in Lewisham.
- Papyrus Hopeline 0800 068 41 41
- Confidential advice for young people
- Advice for parents / carers.
- Advice for professionals
- ChildLine – 0800 11 11
- Confidential advice for young people
- Advice for professionals
- Individual one to one, drop in counselling for children and young people experiencing emotional wellbeing issues at 10 schools in Lewisham.
- Lewisham Mind Kit
- Online resources for range of mental health/ wellbeing issues and peer mentoring support
- National Self-Harm Network
- UK charity offering moderated support forum for self-harm
- NHS Choices - Moodzone
- Online and audio resources to improve mental wellbeing and information about available treatments
- Online training for anyone working with 0-18 year olds
Sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse, in which a young person is manipulated, or forced into taking part in a sexual act. This could be as part of a seemingly consensual relationship, or in return for attention, affection, money, drugs, alcohol or somewhere to stay. The young person may think that their abuser is their friend, or even a boyfriend or girlfriend.
The abuser may physically or verbally threaten the young person or be violent towards them. They will control and manipulate them, and try to isolate them from friends and family. It happens to boys and young men as well as girls and young women. The victims of abuse are not at fault. Abusers are very clever in the way they manipulate and take advantage of the young people they abuse.
What to do:
If you are worried a child or young person is at risk of sexual exploitation go to: What to do if you’re worried about the safety of a child
For further advice speak to Barnardo’s specialist sexual exploitation project 01489 796684
For practical advice on what to do if your child goes missing see the Children’s Society Guidance:
How does Sexual Exploitation happen?
Many sexually exploited young people have been ‘groomed’ by an abusing adult who befriends the young person and makes them feel special by buying them gifts or giving them lots of attention. Young people may be targeted on-line or in person. Young people who are having difficulties at home, regularly go missing or have experienced care may be particularly vulnerable.
What are the signs?
Children and young people that are the victims of sexual exploitation often do not recognise that they are being exploited. However, there are a number of telltale signs that a child may be being groomed for sexual exploitation. These include:
- going missing for periods of time or regularly returning home late
- regularly missing school or not taking part in education
- appearing with unexplained gifts or new possessions
- associating with other young people involved in exploitation
- having older boyfriends or girlfriends
- suffering from sexually transmitted infections
- mood swings or changes in emotional wellbeing
- drug and alcohol misuse
- displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour
What can I do as a parent or a carer?
As a parent or carer, it is important to discuss with children the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships to help highlight potential risks to them. There are also a number of practical steps you can take to protect children such as:
- staying alert to changes in behaviour or any physical signs of abuse such as bruising
- being aware of new, unexplained gifts or possessions
- carefully monitoring any episodes of staying out late or not returning home
- exercising caution around older friends your child may have, or relationships with other young people where there appears to be a power imbalance
- making sure you understand the risks associated with your child being on-line and putting measures in place to minimise these risks.
Staying Safe On-line
The internet is a great way for children and young people to connect with others and learn new things. It’s important that they learn how to do this safely. This video highlights a social experiment “Follow me” by Barnardos. We want to help you keep your child safe online just like you do in the real world.
Top Tips for Parents and Carers of Children & Young People in The Digital World
The LSCB offer a free Online Safety E-Learning course for Parents / Carers that takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. Please follow the instructions at the bottom of this page.
To help your child to enjoy the experience of accessing the digital world we recommend you talk to your child about keeping themselves safe and what to do if they see or hear something that they find upsetting, like taking a screen shot of the evidence and reporting concerns to the site administrator, or the police via www.ceop.police.uk . Remind them they can close the App or website at any time, and most importantly to talk to you if they are worried or upset.
Web based information and social networking sites can increase the risk of a child or young person being groomed for sexual exploitation, criminal activity, general exploitation, or violent extremism. It is common for the child or young person to not recognise they are being exploited or groomed. The best way to make sure they stay safe is to have regular, open conversations with your child. You can also look through the history browser to see what websites have been accessed. If you do become worried that your child is being radicalised you can contact the Prevent Team, on 020 8314 6000 or email email@example.com. You can also report any other exploitation or abuse that takes place online the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub on 020 8314 6660 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sometimes children and young people don’t think about the images they post online or share with their “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”. In response to this, the government have issued guidance for children and young people on the sharing of indecent images, this can be read here:
Online gaming via consoles, phones, and apps can provide a child access to talking to strangers and building “virtual friendships”. It is important your child understands it can be dangerous to share personal information as the person may not be who they say they are. Have a conversation with your child about this, particularly in case your child considers meeting up with someone they have spoken to online. If you do agree to this, we recommend you meet with them too, as they may not be who they say they are and it could lead to your child being harmed.
When considering buying a game or app for your child, think about the recommended age restriction and research the game on YouTube first. You may be surprised at the level of violence or content of some games and it may not be appropriate for your child’s age.
We recommend you keep your knowledge and skills of staying safe in a digital world up-to-date and by regularly by looking at the ThinkUKnow website: https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/ and talking to your child about their experiences.
Take the Free online 30 minute course
Aims & Objectives:
Parents and Carers of Children and Young People in Lewisham.
What do children do online? What are the risks? How can I keep children safe online? This course looks at the risks associated with online and mobile technology and demonstrates ways that you can help create a safer digital environment for children and young people.
- Know the risks associated with mobile and online technology.
- Know how to tackle these risks.
The two links used for the Lewisham training portal are:
- For new users, the self-registration link is: https://lewisham.melearning.university/course_centre (registration key is @Lewisham) – once you send off a request, you will receive a welcome email containing your log in details usually within 24 hours.
- For users who already have an account, the log in link is https://lewisham.melearning.university/user/login (please write down your login and password and keep it safe)
NSPCC On-line Safety has advice and tools to help keep your child safe online.
Think You Know provides advice on online parenting. There is also further information at Think You Know training.
Child Exploitation & Online Protection (CEOP)
CEOP is there to support young people, parents and carers while surfing online, and offers help and advice on topics such as:
- harmful content
It also enables people to immediately report anything online which they find concerning, such as harmful or inappropriate content, or possible grooming behaviour. For more information, or to report concerns, simply click on the CEOP Icon
People trafficking is the movement of people from one area to another by use of force or threat for the purpose of some form of exploitation, such as sexual exploitation, domestic slavery, forced marriage, labour exploitation including in cannabis factories, forcing a young person to commit crimes, drug dealing, credit card fraud, benefit fraud, ritual sacrifice and organ donation.
Traffickers can be male and female and control young people by threatening to report them to the authorities, telling them they owe large sums of money, or by threats of violence to them or their families.
Signs of Trafficking include:
- Receives unexplained or unidentified telephone calls
- Going missing from the home or placement
- Signs of abuse or unwanted pregnancy
- Is required to earn a minimum amount of money each day
- Forced to perform excessive household chores
- Prevented from leaving the house event to attend school or college
- Talks of a large amount of debt they owe
- Is excessively afraid of being deported
Further information or resources:
See the London Procedures for the local protocol and national guidance
Worried about the safety of a child?
If you think a child is being abused or neglected please contact the Lewisham Council Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). If you think a child or young person is at IMMEDIATE risk, you should treat this as an emergency and call 999 to report your concerns to the Police. You can contact the MASH during office hours.
Tel: 020 8314 6660
The out of office hours (5pm -9am weekdays, weekends and Bank Holidays) is: 020 8314 6000 and ask for the emergency duty team.
When you contact the MASH please give as much information as possible about the child you are concerned about. This will help the MASH decide the best way to respond to your concern. The information you give will be kept confidential. You can remain anonymous but it is helpful if you can give your name and details.
The MASH is the service to contact if you want extra help for a child or their family who live in Lewisham. The team is multi-agency and brings together services such as from social care, education, health, police and children centres. The MASH aims to work together to offer the right help at an early stage to families who need support. They will decide the most appropriate type of support to offer. Depending on your relationship with the child they may be able to keep you updated.
Child Exploitation & On-line Protection
CEOP is there to support young people, parents and carers while surfing online, and offers help and advice on topics such as:
- harmful content
It also enables people to immediately report anything online which they find concerning, such as harmful or inappropriate content, or possible grooming behaviour.
For more information or to report a concern click on the CEOP icon
GUIDELINES FOR PROFESSIONALS / AGENCIES / PARENTS
These guidelines are intended for any parent, professional or agency wishing to make a referral to Lewisham Young Carers Service on behalf of a child or young person within a caring role. Please read these guidelines carefully before completing the attached referral forms.
Who can you make a referral for?
Any Young Carer between the ages of 5 and 18 can be referred to our services that are residents or their cared for is someone who lives within the borough of Lewisham:
- Providing care or support for someone with a physical disability, long term illness, mental ill health or substance misuse.
- Is affected by the condition of their cared for.
We will prioritise the service to young carers with the highest need as a result of the significant impact of the caring role and level of caring responsibilities.
The level of priority for each Young Carers may fluctuant throughout the lifetime of their involvement in the service due to sudden changes in their caring situation.
How to make a referral?
Please complete all the pages of our Referral Form and send to:
Waldram Place, Forest Hill
London, SE23 2LB
Tel: 0208 699 8686 | Fax: 0208 699 0634
What happens now?
On receipt of the referral we will look at the information you have given us and prioritise the need for assessment. The outcome will be either:
- Young carer does not meet the criteria for a young carer and no assessment will take place.
- Young carer is allocated to a member of the young carers team for a home visit.
- Further information is needed from the referrer before processing any further.
Referrers will be informed of the outcome via telephone or email within 4 weeks. If you have not heard from us please contact us on 0208 699 8686.
If allocated for assessment, a young carers support officer will make contact with the family to arrange a home visit to gain better understanding about the young carer’s family’s situation and decide on what support services they will be offered.
If you have any questions throughout the referral or assessment process, please do not hesitate to contact us.