It a) amuses me that we need prescribed safeguarding rules and b) is beyond my imagination why fully grown people fail to consider safeguarding in their decision making. I thought safeguarding was a simple moral principle of making sure the young and vulnerable we not put at risk.
So what are we missing? We’ve issued training to relevant managers, we’ve written specific policies, we’ve designated Safeguarding Officers and still young persons could be a at risk.
So for all those wondering what safeguarding is … here goes my explanation:
What is Safeguarding? Safeguarding is the term used for protecting children and vulnerable adults from harm, ensuring they reach their potential and promoting a healthy lifestyle. A child is defined as “anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday”. A vulnerable adult is someone who is over the age of 18 and may, for any reason, be unable to take care of themselves, or able to protect themselves from significant harm or exploitation
The Law? It is a requirement of all those working with children to have:
• a Child Protection or Safeguarding Policy
• access to the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB)
The Stats? NSPCC research suggests that:
• Over 50,000 children in the UK are identified as needing protection from abuse
• 1/14 children are physically abused
• 1/3 children are victims of cyber bullying
• 1/20 children are sexually abused
Designated Safeguarding Officers? The Children’s Act 2004 stated that workplaces should have a Designated Safeguarding Officer (DSO) who has chief responsibility for listening to concerns, referring them at a higher level and raising awareness for the child protection and safeguarding procedures. The role of the DSO is:
• To be alert and to recognise child welfare issues
• Raising concerns
• Sharing information where necessary
•Referring concerns to social services
• Challenging poor practices in the workplace
•This also includes concerns for issues outside the workplace.
Identify? Knowing how to recognise and identify abuse is a key skill for all professionals regardless of their role and position, or the amount of time you spend with a child or young person. There are four main categories of concerns:
• Physical abuse
• Emotional abuse
• Sexual abuse
Reporting? Children and young people may find it difficult to report issues for a number of reasons:
• Feeling guilty or blaming themselves
• Being afraid of the consequences
• Worry about not being believed
• Not having the opportunity to speak out
• Don’t understand what is happening
The signs? Children and young adults respond to issues in various ways:
• Reduced concentration
• Self blame and low self-esteem
• Low motivation and expectations
• Eating disorders and mental health issues
• Chronic fatigue, mood swings, poor sleep
• Difficulty in social and personal relations
• Substance misuse
Managing a Concern?
• Be calm and level-headed – don’t let anger surrounding an issue be reflected in your conversation
• Reassure the child / young person – they are right to confide in you, they are not to blame
• Listen – let them speak, don’t rush them, don’t ask too many questions
• Don’t keep secrets – don’t promise them that you’ll keep their disclosure to yourself, but all issues are reported in confidence the DSO.
• Don’t make assumptions, gather the facts
• Don’t let the child / young person think you don’t believe them
• Don’t ask leading questions or put words into their months
• Don’t ask too many questions
Behaviour? Whilst it is important to reassure a young or vulnerable person who may be nervous in a new placement and reliant on your guidance, you should avoid being over familiar. Never permit ‘horseplay’ which may cause embarrassment or fear. You should never engage in inappropriate conversations with a young person, or when a young person is in your company. This applies to inappropriate text messages, comments and use of social networking sites.
Environment? Where possible, avoid being on your own in an isolated or closed environment with a young person. If the situation is unavoidable you should be alert and not engage in any behaviour that can be misconstrued.
Touch? There maybe occasions when you need to touch a young person (e.g. when you are guiding them in carrying out a technical operation) but these should be kept to a minimum. Be aware of situations and avoid touch wherever possible, for example, when showing a young person how to do something on a computer, ask them to get up so you can use their seat rather than leaning over them.
Travel? Ensure that there is a known destination and check-in time with a third party in situations where a young person will be travelling alone with an adult during a placement. It is a good idea to carry a mobile phone for such situations.
Mentor? Those placed immediately in charge of a young person should be competent in the work role, mature in their attitude and yet and the same time, be at ease with them. Those working directly with young or vulnerable persons should read and understand the full Safeguarding Policy.
Disclosure? Occasionally young people may disclose confidential information to a work colleague that gives rise to concern for their physical or emotional safety. In such situations, you should share you concerns with the HR Manager / DSO.
Disqualification? You are required by law to protect children from harm and that all employees are reminded in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act, to declare if they disqualified from working with young children.
In general: all staff are expected to protect the professional integrity of themselves and the organisation. The following professional boundaries must be adhered to. Employees:
• must treat all children, young and vulnerable persons with dignity
• must ensure that the young persons are aware of and follow, site heath and safety rules
• are not permitted to receive or give gifts to children, young or vulnerable persons without the express permission of the Management Team / parent / carer
• should not buy or sell items from a child, young or vulnerable person
• should not accept responsibility for any valuables on behalf of a young or vulnerable person
• will not lend or give young persons any money from their own pocket
• are not permitted to share their personal address and contact numbers
• will not be complicit in buying / giving young and vulnerable persons things that could be illegal or harmful to their health. This includes alcohol, drugs and cigarettes
• will not form a personal relationship with children, young or vulnerable persons. This includes connections on social media.
• are prohibited to use inappropriate, aggressive behaviour or language in the presence of children, young or vulnerable persons
• should be cautious and avoid any personal contact with children, young or vulnerable persons, this includes offering transport to and from work, without the express knowledge of the Management Team.
• are prohibited from taking photographs of children, young or vulnerable persons without the written permission of the parents / carers and the Management Team / parent / carer
Common sense approach is required at all times.
All matters must be dealt with in the strictest of confidence and all employees are expected to maintain confidentiality and dignity for all persons involved in any issues.
Finally … this is a good guide for managing all staff regardless of age, vulnerability, etc. Its all a matter of respect for one another and our duty to look out for each other?