When working with or around children, safeguarding is an important responsibility you and all other staff and volunteers must take seriously. However, to carry out your safeguarding duties, it’s vital you all understand the national policies for safeguarding and what the law requires so you can keep up to date with any changes.
With so many regular amendments, it can be difficult to stay updated on new statutory requirements and how they impact your role. The government regularly revisits safeguarding legislation and policies to strengthen procedures and make guidance for you as clear as possible. Here’s what you need to know.
The Main Legislation and National Safeguarding Policies You Need to Know
There are a handful of policies, legislation and statutory guidance documents the Department for Education (DfE) have created. They update these documents regularly and apply to everyone who’s responsible for children’s safety.
The main pieces of legislation and national policies you must be aware of include:
The Children Act 1989
The Children Act 1989 was introduced to reform and clarify the plethora of laws that previously affected children. Before this, there was no single piece of legislation that covered child protection in the UK.
The main principle of this Act is that a child’s welfare is paramount when making decisions about their upbringing. Although, every effort should be made to preserve the child’s home and family links. It also sets out in detail what local authorities and the courts should do to protect the welfare of children and charges local authorities with the duty to investigate.
This applies if authorities suspect a child if suffering from or is likely to suffer significant harm.
The Children Act 2004
The Children Act 2004 doesn’t replace the 1989 Act. Instead, it amended the previous Act, largely in consequence of the Victoria Climbie inquiry. This statutory requirement aims to improve and integrate children’s services, promote early intervention, provide strong leadership and bring together different professionals in multi-disciplinary teams to achieve positive outcomes for children and their families.
It takes a child-centred approach and aims to improve effective local working to safeguard and promote children’s wellbeing. The Children Act 2004 also establishes a base for better-integrated planning, commissioning and delivery of children’s services. There’s also clearer accountability for council’s children’s services and provides a legislative basis for better sharing of information.
The Children and Social Work Act 2017
The Children and Social Work Act 2017 is intended to improve support for looked after children, promote the welfare and safeguarding for children and make provisions for the regulation of social workers. The main purpose of this statutory requirement is to:
- Improve decision-making and support for looked after and previously looked after children in England and Wales.
- Enable the establishment of a new regulatory regime specifically for the social work profession in England.
- Improve joint work at the local level to safeguard children and enable better learning at local and national levels to improve child protection practice.
- Promote the safeguarding of children by providing for relationships and sex education in schools.
These help to establish a set of principles which bring the focus back to the looked after child while acting in their best interests and taking into account their wishes and feelings.
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 is a key piece of legislation to keep in mind when recruiting new staff members and volunteers. This Act was passed to help avoid harm or risk or harm by preventing people who are deemed unsuitable to work with children and vulnerable adults.
It stops them from gaining access to children through their work. Following the death of two children in Soham in 2002, the 2002 Act provided a new vetting and barring scheme to replace the previous arrangements for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.
This came as a result of the Bichard Inquiry Report in 2002. It identified the failures in the betting and barring systems, some of which included:
- Inconsistent decisions made by employers on the basis of CRB disclosure information.
- Inconsistencies between police authorities in the disclosure of police information.
- A barring system which was reactive to harmful behaviour rather than preventative.
As a result, the purpose of this Act is to minimise the risk of harm and offer a centralised vetting process that all those working closely with children will need to go through.
The Care Act 2014
Although primarily aimed at adults, the Care Act 2014 also applies to children and young people. This Act encourages a person-centred approach when safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. By following the principles, you’ll place a child’s wellbeing and needs at the forefront of safeguarding processes.
This Act also helps you reach decisions in the child’s best interests when managing safeguarding concerns and care plans. The Care Act 2014 sets out the following principles which underpin the safety of children. These include:
- Empowerment: Supporting and encouraging children and young people to make their own decisions and informed consent.
- Prevention: It’s better to take action before harm occurs.
- Proportionality: This is the least intrusive response appropriate to the presented risk.
- Protection: Offering support and representation for those in greatest need.
- Partnership: Local solutions offered by working with communities as they have a part to play in preventing, detecting and reporting neglect and abuse.
- Accountability: Accountability and transparency in delivering safeguarding.
The aim of the Act and its principles aim to eliminate a detached approach in safeguarding.
GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018
Schools, colleges and employees must do everything within their power to ensure the security and safety of any material of a personal and sensitive nature - this includes personal data. This is where the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 applies as you must have a plan in place for how data is to be protected.
This statutory requirement also includes how your systems should be monitored for data breaches and what happens if a breach occurs. The purpose is to give control over personal data back to the subject, so they have a right to be informed, have access, object, restrict processing and more.
To get started on your own school data protection policy and ensure it’s robust and exhaustive, follow this step-by-step guide.
Information Sharing: Advice for Practitioners 2018
Information sharing, or disclosure, is crucial for the effective safeguarding of children. It’s also essential for effective identification, assessment, service provision and risk management. In the past, poor information sharing has been pinpointed as a key factor in several serious case reviews.
As a result, the updated Information Sharing: Advice for Practitioners 2018 aims to improve the decision-making so the actions taken are always in the best interest of a child. The policy has outlined seven golden rules you must follow, including:
- Remember the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 doesn’t limit justified information sharing for the purpose of keeping children safe.
- Be open with the child and their agreement if it’s safe and appropriate.
- Seek advice from others if you’re in doubt.
- Where possible, share information with consent.
- Always consider safety and wellbeing.
- There are also some principles to help support the safeguarding of a child. A disclosure must be necessary, proportionate, relevant, adequate, accurate, timely and secure.
- Record decisions and reasons.
Along with the above, you, your employees and everyone working in close proximity with children must also be alert to the signs and triggers of abuse.
Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Between Children in Schools and Colleges 2018
The Department for Education (DfE) has published guidance for schools and college on sexual violence and sexual harassment between children. The Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Between Children in Schools and Colleges 2018 briefing includes guidance on:
- What sexual violence and harassment between children is.
- How you must respond to reports of sexual violence and harassment within your school.
- Your school or college’s legal responsibilities.
- Your school or college’s approach to safeguarding and child protection.
The NSPCC CASPAR briefing also offers additional guidance and sets out the legal framework. It highlights the best practice and other advice so your school or college can develop your own policies and procedures. It also emphasises your responsibility on how to reflect sexual violence and harassment in your school or college’s approach to safeguarding.
As you have safeguarding responsibilities alongside your school, staff members and volunteers, you must familiarise yourself with two additional policies.
Working Together to Safeguard Children
The Working Together to Safeguard Children policy sets out the responsibilities that organisations in England must fulfil to safeguard children and young people. It explains the need for local authorities to coordinate with each other so you can appropriately respond to safeguarding concerns and promote children’s welfare.
Originally published in 2015, the government has made significant updates to the previous version to support the arrangement established by the Children and Social Work Act 2017. These key changes include:
- Child death reviews.
- Assessing need and providing help.
- Local and national child safeguarding practise reviews.
- Organisational responsibilities.
- Multi-agency safeguarding arrangements.
By staying up-to-date with this policy, it will enable you to make any necessary amends to your school’s safeguarding policies or implement new procedures if needed to continue keeping children safe from harm.
Keeping Children Safe in Education
All education settings must follow the guidance set out in the Keeping Children Safe in Education policy. It clearly explains how you, staff and volunteers must fulfil your safeguarding duties and promote the welfare of children.
It enforces the statement that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. The information in this policy allows you to take a child-centred approach and to consider the best interests of a child at all times.
The policy also highlights your responsibility in regards to:
- Online safety.
- Contextual safeguarding.
- Risk assessments for volunteers.
- What you must do if you have concerns.
- Peer on peer abuse.
- And more.
Like other policies, it’s vital you regularly check for updates so you can make any amends to your policies. It also ensures you’re following the correct procedures at all times.
As with all areas of safeguarding, it’s better to be prepared with more information than you might ever have to use than it is to find yourself in a situation where a child’s safety has been compromised - and you don’t understand how to help. To assist you and ensure you’re always protected, we’ve created the safeguarding handbook which you can always refer to.
Find Out More About Safeguarding in Our Handbook
By downloading the handbook, you’ll take a big step towards making sure you, your school and everyone involved with children are doing everything they can to protect them. With such a wide area to cover in safeguarding, it features all of the essential information you need to know, signs to look out for, dealing with disclosures and more.
Download your copy using the link below.
For more information regarding the safeguarding of vulnerable children, including presentations from PACE, Metropolitan Police Service, London Borough of Redbridge and many more, click below.