Sunday, 29 June 2014

Safeguarding & Protecting Children in Regulated Activities

As an education consultant, qualified teacher, child protection and safeguarding officer, safeguarding children in my care over the years has been one of the hardest jobs I have ever had to do. Over my 30 years in education I have worked on some extremely challenging child protection and safeguarding cases covering serious neglect, paedophilia, grooming, substance abuse and serious domestic violence . Even as an experienced practitioner managing large day nurseries and working in schools all over the world, making a child protection referral is not only hard to do, but also unpleasant and scary.

Within my many years of training, it is stressed, I have a duty of care to the children I work with and should comply with the early years foundation stage statutory framework. As a professional I work by these policies at all times and would never practice any other way. The welfare of every child is always my main, immediate and first concern. I am an experienced, confident practitioner who doesn't have issue with standing out, coming forward and speaking up; many less experienced may not be so bold.

Some signs of child abuse are difficult to spot and assess. Some signs can resemble other issues. Covert child abuse is not simple. Young children cannot and sometimes will not disclose. It's impossible for very young children to verbalize. Some are groomed to keep it secret. Less experienced practitioners may find it hard to assess and also be scared to report in case they get it wrong. There is still a taboo and silence around child sex abuse; it's hard to believe it's happening right under your nose. It's hard to discuss it and hard to discuss with parents and carers. Paedophilia is a very uncomfortable subject and for less experienced practitioners, hard to assess, recognise and report.

Safeguarding Children does not just cover child abuse any more, it encompasses every aspect of keeping children and young people safe. Safeguarding covers every aspect of a practitioners day from door safety, stranger danger and managed risk to sun safety, safe equipment and health, and this just outlines a very small proportion of the role of leadership and management in early years settings and schools. Safeguarding today is an onerous and complex issue and one is required to be vigilant, aware, confident and buckets full of common sense.

Whistleblowing is another difficult and unsafe area within safeguarding and child protection. The whistleblower has no safe place and is not protected in law and cannot currently remain anonymous. As an experienced leader I have blown the whistle when practice has not been safe for children but soon after I have been thrown to the wolves with no protection from anyone and had to resign from my employment. Lesser experienced bold ethical leaders would chose not to come forward and whistleblow. Many could not afford to lose the job or stand the stress. I was extremely ill after whistleblowing an extremely unsafe environment for children in my care.

Referring is a complex process also. It requires keeping your wits about you, remaining calm and level headed and being confident in your practice. Telephoning First Response and reporting to the Local Area Designated Officer (LADO) the concerns you have is daunting and the process that follows is daunting and scary. The note taking and accurate confidential recording of conversations with all parties concerned in draining and exhausting in itself. Advising the parents, attending Team around the Child Meetings with all the professionals working with the child and completing referral forms and issuing comprehensive reports is hugely challenging for an experienced practitioner let alone an inexperienced one.

There is a major argument and requirement for mandatory reporting of known abuse in all regulated activities. This would require all practitioners in regulated activities to report abuse by law; currently it is discretionary. Yes, unbelievably, it is discretionary, so why would anyone report when they are scared in the first place, have no idea of the process once they have reported and if they are wrong could lose their job, business, reputation or all three.

All establishments working with vulnerable children and adults must have safeguarding policies and procedures in place but these are only as good as the individuals implementing them. A piece of paper in a file in an office that is not adhered to does not, and will never, safeguard children. Staff training is another big issue as the current training is very limited and does not cover the processes and procedures once a referral has been implemented.

Children and adults involved in the historic cases in the press currently would not have had to wait 30 or 40 years before someone listened and believed their pleas for help. Someone must have had suspicions; that someone would have been obliged by law and legislation, and with protection and support, to report their suspicion of abuse if it had been mandatory to report. Mandatory reporting of known child abuse would safeguard everyone involved once drawn up in legislation and I would have been protected as a whistleblower and possibly kept my job.

Follow: @mandatenow @jonathanwest _ @ed2inspire @paulabarrow


  1. My Twitter handle is in fact @JonathanWest_ (note the final underscore character)

  2. Thanks for this Jonathon, noted and updated. Thanks. Best wishes ;0)