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Understand safeguarding of children and young people (for those working in the adult sector): Sample Essay

Safeguarding Children & Young People Guide

By Daniel Dutton (5th February 2020)

This guide has been developed to help my organisation’s employees understand their role and responsibilities relating the safeguarding of children and young people, recognise potential signs and symptoms of abuse and know what actions to take if harm or abuse is disclosed to them.

Although our employees predominately work with adults, it is important to understand how children and young people are safeguarded because we may come into contact with this demographic in our day-to-day work. In addition, we do provide services for a small minority of service users that are under 18.

Legislative Framework

The ‘Children Act 1989’ (which was later supplemented by the ‘Children Act 2004’) provides a comprehensive framework for the protection and safeguarding of children and introduced the ‘Paramountcy Principle’, which makes a child’s welfare the priority. It also sets out the responsibilities of the local authority, including their duty to investigate any allegations of abuse and to provide services to children in need.

Every Child Matters’ (2003) provides detailed guidance for working safely with children and sets out five rights that all children should have; to be healthy, to stay safe, to enjoy and achieve, to make a positive contribution and to achieve economic well-being.

The Children’s Plan’ (2007) builds on this theme by providing more support to families, including strengthening the complaints procedure for parents of children that are bullied.

Section 40 of the ‘Childcare Act 2006’ requires early years providers to comply with welfare criteria detailed by the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

The ‘Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2016’ set the legal framework for what is now the Disclosure and Barring Service. It maintains a list of people that are unsuitable to work with children and vulnerable adults and provides a system for employers to vet potential employees or volunteers.

The statutory guidance detailed in the ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (2010, latest revision 2018) paper sets out how organisations and individuals should work in partnership to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The primary partners are the local authority, the clinical commissioning group and the police, however everyone that comes into contact with children should have an awareness of the content.

The ‘Children and Families Act 2014’ gives greater protection to vulnerable children and provides additional support to parents and families.

The ‘Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Between Children in Schools’ (2017) guidance provides information to educational institutions about what is defined as sexual violence and sexual harassment, their legal responsibilities, how to respond to reports of this nature and how to create a ‘whole-school’ or ‘whole-college’ approach to safeguarding and protection.

The ‘Children and Social Work Act 2017’ is intended to improve support for ‘looked after’ children and care leavers as well as promote the welfare and safeguarding of children.

Safe Working Practice

When working with children and young people, it is important that adults are aware of safe working practice to fulfil their duty of care.

Maintaining professional boundaries is essential and all organisations that work directly with children should have a policy that details how staff should behave or a ‘code of conduct’. This can include avoiding or limiting communication with children outside of the workplace (including social media). For our organisation, this is embodied in our ‘Child Protection Policy and Procedure’, which can be found on our Quality Compliance System.

Employees may be privy to personal information about children and their families and they will be expected to keep this confidential as detailed in the Data Protection Act 2018 and organisational policies.

Being in a position of trust can mean an unequal distribution of power for the relationship between an adult and young person and can potentially lead to exploitation. The adult should recognise this responsibility and exercise care and judgment to protect the welfare of the young people that they work with. They should not say or do anything that could cause others to question their suitability for their role. 

The use of touch may be used to assist or comfort a child or young person but only in response to their immediate needs, for limited duration and only with their express permission.

Signs & Symptoms of Abuse & Neglect

Abuse can take many forms from physical, sexual and emotional to neglect and domestic violence. Being able to recognise the signs, symptoms and behaviours that could potentially indicate that abuse is occurring can expedite safeguarding and protection of children.

General indicators of abuse and neglect can include a child appearing fearful, nervous or depressed, having poor concentration, being withdrawn, underachieving, having difficulty forming relationships and not being able to or wanting to play.

Indicators of physical abuse can include unexplained cuts, bruises, scalds and other injuries as well as aggression and flinching. Being overly quiet or cautious and having a reluctance to change or remove clothing are also potential signs.

Signs of sexual abuse can include soreness, itchiness or injuries around the genital area, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Behaviours can include discomfort when walking or sitting down, fear of being left alone with an individual or a group, bedwetting, nightmares, running away from home, having sexual knowledge that is not age appropriate and having unexplained money or possessions.

Emotional abuse may be recognised by neuroses, hair-twisting, rocking, having an unusually low self esteem, sudden speech disorders and a fear of making mistakes.

Indicators of neglect include a child being hungry, dirty, smelly, wearing inappropriate clothing, tiredness and disclosing that they have been left unsupervised.

Managing Disclosures

If a child discloses that they have been abused, then adults must always take it seriously and listen to them, however they should not ask leading questions that could influence what the child says. 

The child may ask that the adult promises to keep it a secret, however the adult must explain that they cannot keep abuse confidential and they have a duty of care to report it to protect the child’s welfare. The adult should reassure the child and explain that it is not their fault.

The adult should not confront the alleged abuser, but instead make a detailed and accurate record of the conversation before reporting it to the Fine Futures safeguarding lead.

Rights of Children and Families

If an allegation of harm or abuse is made then it is useful to have an awareness of the rights of the child or young person and their significant others.

Children and young people have the rights listed above under the ‘Every Child Matters’ (2003) guidance as well as the right to be protected from significant harm. They also have the right to be involved in any decisions that are made about them, have the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings and to be kept fully informed of the process. In addition, children and young people have the right to not be subjected to repeated medical examinations and questioning. The degree to which a child or young person’s views will be weighted in the decision-making process will depend on the age and maturity of the child. Older children will usually have more control than younger children, however all children must have their thoughts and feelings listened to and considered.

Parents and carers have the right to know what is happening and contribute to decisions made about their children.

Other family members have the right to know what is being said about them.