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Safeguarding means putting processes in place to ensure that vulnerable people are not abused in any way, including verbally or physically.

Safeguarding as a general concept is to protect people from harm and the best way to do that is to put appropriate measures in place. This often comes in the form of a framework, which allows those involved to follow certain steps and prevent negative outcomes in a tried and tested manner.

When is safeguarding used?

Knowing about safeguarding and being trained in its implementation is a very useful skill to have. This is partly due to the fact that it can be used in a number of wide-reaching situations. The first, of course, is when looking after vulnerable people. Within this area, there are several subcategories, such as children, older people and those with learning difficulties.

It is vitally important that anyone who is seen as vulnerable is protected, although all people within hierarchical structures should also be looked after. A common example of this is the workplace, where safeguarding helps to ensure that employees are not exploited or taken advantage of.

Supporting children and families

All children deserve the opportunity to achieve their full potential. In 2003, the Government published the Every Child Matters Green Paper alongside the formal response to the report into the death of Victoria Climbié. The Green Paper set out five outcomes that are key to children and young people’s wellbeing:

  • be healthy;
  • stay safe;
  • enjoy and achieve;
  • make a positive contribution; and
  • achieve economic wellbeing.

The Children Act 2004 subsequently became law and set out these outcomes in the statute, as well as the Government’s approach to the well-being of children and young people from birth to age 19. To achieve these outcomes, children need to feel loved and valued, and be supported by a network of reliable and affectionate relationships. If they are denied the opportunity and support they need to achieve these outcomes, children are at increased risk not only of an impoverished childhood but also of disadvantage and social exclusion in adulthood. Abuse and neglect pose particular problems.

Parenting, family life and services

Patterns of family life vary and there is no one, perfect way to bring up children. Good parenting involves caring for children’s basic needs, keeping them safe and protected, showing the warmth and love, and providing the stimulation needed for their development and to help them achieve their potential, within a stable environment where they experience consistent guidance and boundaries. Parenting can be challenging. Parents themselves require and deserve support. Asking for help should be seen as a sign of responsibility rather than as a parenting failure.

A wide range of services and professionals provide support to families in bringing up children. In the great majority of cases, it should be the decision of parents when to ask for help and advice on their children’s care and upbringing. However, professionals do also need to engage parents early when to do so may prevent problems or difficulties becoming worse. Only in exceptional cases should there be compulsory intervention in family life – e.g. where this is necessary to safeguard a child from significant harm. Such intervention should – provided this is consistent with the safety and welfare of the child – support families in making their own plans for the welfare and protection of their children.

Safeguarding and the law

There have been significant safeguarding legislation updates recently that all senior leaders should be aware of. The Department for Education’s (DfE) Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance for schools in England highlights the importance of regular safeguarding training and the need to keep up-to-date with the latest safeguarding knowledge and information. Following this legislation update, annual safeguarding training and induction training is now mandatory.

The reporting of FGM is now mandatory. As educators, if you or any of your staff suspect that FGM has happened to a pupil in your school, even if it’s not recently, you are legally obligated to report it to the police. There is now a range of criminal offences with severe penalties for carrying out or facilitating FGM to be carried out, including arranging or performing FGM in the UK or taking a girl abroad for the procedure.

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined for the purposes of:

  • protecting children from maltreatment;
  • preventing impairment of children’s health or development;
  • ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care;
  • and undertaking that role so as to enable those children to have optimum life chances and to enter adulthood successfully.

Protecting children from maltreatment is important in preventing the impairment of health or development though that in itself may be insufficient to ensure that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care.

Young people at serious risk of community-based violence such as gang, group and knife crime are likely to have significant needs. Agencies and professionals need to ensure that the safeguarding process responds effectively to the needs of children at risk of violence within the community. This may involve both the perpetrators and victims of violent activity. Child protection is a part of safeguarding and promoting welfare. This refers to the activity that is undertaken to protect specific children who are suffering or are at risk of suffering, significant harm.

Effective child protection is essential as part of wider work to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. However, all agencies and individuals should aim proactively to safeguard and promote the welfare of children so that the need for action to protect children from harm is reduced.

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