Making sure the legacy of Child Q’s experience results in lasting change

Representatives from across social work, safeguarding and youth services have called for lasting change as a result of the ‘appalling’ case of Child Q after a safeguarding review revealed she was stripped and searched by female police officers from the Metropolitan Police Service.

In 2020, Child Q, a black female child of secondary school age, was stripped and searched by female police officers from the Metropolitan Police Service after being informed by her teachers that she was smelling strongly of cannabis and suspected that she might be carrying drugs.

The search, which involved the exposure of Child Q’s intimate body parts, took place on school premises, without an appropriate adult or teacher present and knowing that Child Q was menstruating.

As a result, a Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review was initiated by the City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP).

The review makes eight findings and fourteen recommendations for practice improvement. The first finding was that the school was fully compliant when responding to its concerns about Child Q smelling of cannabis, concluding that Child Q had been exposed to a traumatic incident and had undoubtedly suffered harm.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, and the Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, said all aspects of the review were “appalling”. In a joint statement, they said they condemned “the decision by police officers to strip search a child in her school; the lack of challenge by the school towards the police; the absence of requirements of police to seek parental consent in the strip search of a child…. actions that were wholly disproportionate to the alleged incident to which they had been called.

“This is exacerbated by the fact that the strip search was carried out at school, a place where the child had an expectation of safety, security and care. Instead, she was let down by those who were meant to protect her.

“The report concluded that racism was likely an ‘influencing factor’ in the strip search, and the girl – a black child – was subjected to ‘adultification’ bias – where black and global majority children are held to adult standards, but their white peers are less likely to be.

The council now says it’s asking for an ‘update report’ in six to nine months, detailing the progress made in response to the review’s recommendations, particularly in relation to the police and other partners.

Commenting on the case, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) said the events highlighted the “reality that racism is ever present in our education, criminal justice and other systems.”

“BASW wholly condemn the actions of all those involved in this heinous act of physical and emotional child abuse. We denounce the degrading, humiliating and traumatic treatment of this 15-year-old girl.”

“The case of Child Q highlights the reality that racism is ever present in our education, criminal justice and other systems. It is beyond belief that in a 21st century, post-colonial era in the UK, that a child could be subjected to such treatment. It shows a systemic failure by many professionals who should have protected her.

“As an association, we express our deep empathy and stand in solidarity with Child Q and her family. We stand together as social workers to fight institutional and structural racism whenever it occurs and work together to promote a society where equity and justice prevails.”

Read the full safeguarding review (PDF):

Read the full statement from BASW:

How we can help

We deliver training courses to support professionals to explore how knowledge of ethnic culture and religious identity relates in practice to social work and how it can support effective communication and social worker assessments ensuring that all children are equally safeguarded regardless of difference. 

We are specialists in providing legal and social care training. If you require bespoke and practical skilled training on undertaking culturally sensitive assessments, and understanding of the law or related subjects, please contact us for a no-obligation discussion of your training needs.

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Disclaimer: The contents of this guide are for information and are not intended to be relied upon as legal advice

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