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The safeguarding support unit (SSU) and the sexual assault referral centre (SARC)

At the safeguarding support unit (SSU) and the sexual assault referral centre (SARC), we offer a range of services to help you.

Please note, children can say ‘no’ to examinations at any time, and we will never force children to be examined.

Child protection medical assessments

Do you have concerns about physical or emotional abuse or neglect of a child?

Have you considered a referral to SSU for assessment by a paediatrician?

A child protection medical assessment includes:

  • review of the history from social care, other professionals, parent and carer, and child that has led to concern
  • full medical examination, as appropriate for each case and age or the development of a child
  • organisation of any investigations needed to find a cause for a child’s symptoms
  • treatment of any medical problems identified
  • an opinion of the likely cause of any injuries
  • documentation of signs and symptoms that suggest neglect
  • an assessment of un-met medical need, and what needs to be done to manage this
  • health promotion and a check of the child’s immunisation record
  • a developmental assessment where appropriate
  • an opinion on the impact on the child of the concerns that have been raised
  • referral on to and liaison with other services within the SSU and wider health services, such as sexual health and CAMHS
  • follow up can be arranged when required
  • reports will be provided for child protection conferences, police investigations and so on

Other services

Formal developmental assessments, including Schedule of Growing Skills (SOGS) which can help to evidence a child’s current developmental state, or changes following interventions.

Referral to an SSU psychologist for assessment and management of psychological difficulties related to abuse, neglect and trauma. This may include:

  • developmental and mental health assessments
  • assessment of attachment
  • clinical formulation of risk and likelihood of positive change within a family where a child’s needs are not being met
  • support and information for parents of children who have suffered abuse, neglect or trauma
  • trauma support and psychoeducation for children and teenagers
  • Talking Therapies and Theraplay-informed work, as relevant to the presentation
  • preparation for CAMHS support, liaison with existing CAMHS provision for a child and support and referrals to CAMHS
  • multiagency liaison and attendance at multiagency meetings

Sexual abuse

Children who have been sexually abused recently should be seen within the sexual assault referral centre (SARC) for urgent assessment. They can be referred to us by police or social care.

Assessments can include:

  • collection of forensic evidence and documentation of other signs and symptoms of recent abuse
  • treatment of injuries or medical problems
  • emergency contraception
  • screening for sexually transmitted infections
  • assessment of the need for treatment to prevent HIV and hepatitis B infection
  • assessment of emotional health and referrals for support and treatment if required
  • an evaluation of other child protection concerns, including the risk of child sexual exploitation

Children who have a history of less recent sexual abuse may still require medical assessment and examination

  • to reassure a child and parents or carers that despite what has happened to them they are well
  • to document possible persisting signs and symptoms of sexual abuse
  • to screen for sexually transmitted infections
  • to assess for emotional distress and refer to psychology support
  • to look for signs of female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • to identify other child protection concerns

Further Information

We are assisted by experienced support workers with all of our assessments and examinations.

Children and families will be supported to access the services we can offer.


Children can say “no” to examinations and we will never force children to be examined.

We take into account the child’s emotional and physical development when planning assessment and treatment so as not to cause pain or distress.

How to refer to the SSU

Call 0114 226 7803 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm for concerns about physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect.

If an urgent examination is required after 5pm or at the weekend due to concerns about physical abuse, please phone the Sheffield Children’s Hospital switchboard on 0114 271 7000 and ask for the medical registrar on-call.

How to refer with concerns to the SARC (for acute sexual assault )

If you have concerns about acute sexual assault or abuse, please call Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm call 0114 226 7803, or on out-of-hours, weekends and bank holidays call 0114 271 7000.

Ask for the Consultant on-call for sexual abuse, SARC. Referrals need to be received before 6pm in order for a child or young person to be seen that day.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: SFG9

Resource Type: Article

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Western Bank
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

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