Safeguarding is one of those buzzwords which seems to be everywhere. It’s often used in connection with children or vulnerable adults, but are we really clear what it means? If you’re applying for a job which requires an understanding of safeguarding, or are an employer who has to make sure you’re getting in right for your business, here’s what you need to know.
Safeguarding – The Definition
You can look up dozens of definitions online for safeguarding, and totally bamboozle yourself with all the different meanings, definitions and words used. The best definition is this: Safeguarding is the steps you take to protect people from harm. Now, the “people” might be children, or the elderly, or teenage schoolchildren. “Harm” could be any type of abuse or maltreatment. What safeguarding means will vary according to the setting and the type of people using it. For example, a secondary school might implement a social media policy to eliminate the risk of teenagers sharing videos of each other online. This is unlikely to be an issue at a pre-school.
Dealing with Safeguarding
If you’re a good employer, or a conscientious employee, you’re probably doing a lot of safeguarding already. Most employers will have identified what steps they need to do to look after both employers and customers or patients in the workplace. They will be carrying out DBS checks where required for that role, and might have policies about not using your mobile phone at work. Most will also have procedures for raising concerns about other employees, or for whistle-blowing about risks in the workplace. There’s also a lot of help out there for employers who are trying to do the right thing, both from charities such as the NSPCC and from business professionals who will come into the organisation and audit what you’re doing to make suggestions for improvement.
Safeguarding isn’t something which you can do once and then file away in the “completed” box. It should be thought of as an ongoing process, and most good employers will have a process for looking at their policies every year or two, and looking at whether they are still doing the job they’re intended to. Template policies and procedures are widely available online as a starting point.
An important part of safeguarding is whistle-blowing. Whistle-blowing applies to any worker who wants to raise concerns about something which is happening in the workplace. It usually applies when management are ignoring the issue, or are part of the problem. Whistle blowers are protected by law, and can’t be sacked because they have raised genuine concerns over safeguarding, or anything else which shouldn’t be happening at work. Whistle blowers can make their complaint to their bosses, or if they don’t feel comfortable in doing this, can go further up the chain to a governing body. They may also approach a lawyer for specialist advice. There are no legal implications for a whistle blower going forward – this isn’t the sort of thing which would ever appear on a DBS form, for example.