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Every organisation must have a named person for their designated safeguarding lead as specified in the Children Act 2004. A designated safeguarding lead is the person who has the duty to ensure a company’s safeguarding policy is followed by all members of staff in the setting.
Here are some of the settings where there will be a designated safeguarding lead –
- Schools and other educational settings.
- Healthcare settings (such as GP surgeries and hospitals).
- Social care settings (such as a women’s refuge where children may be present).
What are the key roles of a designated safeguarding lead?
- Creating and imposing the company’s safeguarding policy.
- Make sure all staff know how to raise safeguarding concerns.
- Referring any concerns of the welfare of a child to social services when appropriate.
- Ensure all staff have the appropriate training to understand the signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect.
- Maintain accurate and secure child protection records.
- Gather any evidence or information that needs to be passed on to the social care team.
Who can be a designated safeguarding lead?
The position can be offered to anyone within your organisation who has a good understanding of safeguarding guidance and the procedures.
How long does a safeguarding certificate last?
“It is important for all staff to have up to date safeguarding children level 2 training, this should be carried out every two years.
The designated safeguard lead should carry out training for safeguarding children at level 3 every two years as well.”
It is important to have regular meetings in regards to safeguarding within the school with the appropriate members of staff. Teacher training days are also the appropriate time to update staff on safeguarding procedures.
Suspicions and disclosures where there is a designated safeguarding lead
In a setting where there is a designated safeguarding lead, the following would apply when reporting a concern:
- Calling 999 if the child is in immediate danger.
- Following the setting’s safeguarding policies and procedures as soon as possible if the danger is not imminent.
- Contacting the local child protection services which will be those who are in the setting’s local authority, where the local authority designated officer (LADO) will take action.
Employees are required to know who their safeguarding lead is, in the instance that a safeguarding referral needs to be made. It is important that if you are the designated safeguarding lead that all staff are aware, especially new staff.
What should I record?
The simple answer to this question is that the person making a referral should record as much information as they possibly can. Not everyone will have a lot of information to hand but this should not stop the person from reporting a concern, because even with just small amounts of detail, action can still be taken that may prevent further harm from taking place.
Vital information should include:
- The details about the child or children involved.
- Where the incidents are taking place.
- Known family members who may be involved.
- What exactly has been seen, heard or reported to the person making the referral.
- When the incident(s) took place.
- Any other relevant information.
If the person making the referral does not have all of this detail, it does not matter and a report should still be made. It may turn out that other people have also recorded a cause for concern and the organisation taking the referrals may be able to use the information together as part of a larger investigation.
If information about potential abuse has been gathered from an overt or a covert disclosure then what needs to be recorded is very similar. However, it is important to also ensure that any information given by a child is recorded in their own words, exactly as it was said at the time. The information should also contain details about what was happening at the time of the disclosure, where the disclosure took place and if there was anything happening prior to the disclosure that may be relevant.
If possible, particular details about when abuse has taken place should be recorded if this information has been given. For example, was it a one-off incident that took place in a public area or was it in the home of the child or the home of the alleged abuser?
Other useful information to record includes when the alleged abuse took place, for example was it during the day, at night-time, yesterday, a week ago or months ago? As well as this, a child may disclose if they were alone with the alleged abuser or if they were with other people; any information like this should be noted as part of the report.
Children may mention that they have already told someone else about what happened and that person may or may not have taken action to make a report. Regardless of whether someone else has reported the information though, the person listening to the disclosure should always take action themselves because the more evidence that can be given about the incident, the more likely that the best outcome in terms of what to do in response can be achieved.
Any information that a child gives should be of their own volition and the person who is hearing a disclosure should never press a child for more information or ask them questions that could lead to a child giving exaggerated or false information.
A body map is used to record information about any kind of physical injuries that a child has sustained as a result of abuse. The map acts as a visual record and helps professionals and agencies to work together in determining whether or not there is a safeguarding concern.
Any person who completes a body map should keep in mind that it is not a replacement for a medical assessment and if there is any concern about the physical injuries that are recorded on the body map, the child must be attended to by a medical professional.
Details that should be recorded on a body map include:
- Information about the person who noticed the injuries on the child, when they noted them and what their relationship is to the child in question.
- Details of specific injuries – where they are, what they look like, their colour, shape, size and condition.
- Whether the injury seems to be healing or getting worse..
- Whether the child is showing distress about the injury.
- Information about how the injury was sustained.
- Information about what the child or their parent says about the injury.
- Information on a body map, just like with a disclosure report form, should be factual and accurate and the information should be signed and dated by the person who has completed it.
According to the NSPCC the most common sites for injuries that have not been sustained by an accident include:
- Upper and inner arms.
- Front and back of thighs.
Bruises, which occur in clusters, are a common feature of abuse and these most often appear on arms, thighs and the body. They may be in the shape of an implement used to abuse a child or may be in the shape of a hand or fingers if a child has been grabbed.
Why does certain information need to be recorded?
Having a factual account of what has happened to a child will better enable professionals who may be involved once the report has been forwarded to have a better idea of what is happening, or has happened, in the child’s life and what might have brought about a disclosure of abuse that a child may have kept to themselves for a long time before they have finally been able to feel safe enough to tell someone about it.
If the recording of the disclosure results in court proceedings then the record of the disclosure may be the only actual piece of evidence that exists about the abuse that has taken place. This may then help to protect the child because they may be removed from their family and/or criminal proceedings may take place against the abuser.
Methods of recording
If a member of the public is making the report about abuse then they may not have recorded any information at all but are just working from what they remember they have seen or heard or what someone else has told them. Although this may not sound as though it is very useful in terms of ‘hard evidence’, the information should still be recorded, even if it is just on a piece of paper or on the notepad of a phone or tablet.
On the other hand, if the information about abuse is coming from a disclosure then it should be recorded formally. Settings should have formal paperwork on which to record information, which will usually be a disclosure form, which has a body map attached to it, in case the child has visible injuries.
Any information that is written onto a disclosure form should be:
- Factual and not opinion based.
- Signed and dated.
The person completing the form should remember that it may be used as evidence if the report results in a criminal trial or the removal of a child from their family.
When information is shared between professionals and other agencies, it better enables everyone involved to build a clearer picture of the child’s life and therefore a better opportunity to assess the risks that are presented to them.
However, sharing information is not always appropriate, as doing so could put the child at greater risk of harm.
The times when sharing is appropriate include:
- When a family will benefit from additional support.
- When a family has requested additional support.
- When a court requires information to be shared.
- When another agency has permission for information to be shared.
- If there is concern that a child (or another member of their family) is at risk of harm.
- If a crime has been committed or is about to be committed within a family (this includes possible acts of terrorism or radicalisation).
Not all information should be shared if this is not necessary and not all agencies and professionals involved will need to know all information. An informed decision about who to share with and what to share should be made by the people involved.
Consent to share information
Children should always be given the chance to consent to any information they have disclosed to be shared. In an instance where children cannot consent, the consent should be gained through their parents unless doing so would put them at risk.
If consent cannot be given at all then information should still be shared if there is reason to believe that not sharing the information would put a child’s safety at risk. In this instance, some information should be recorded to enable others to understand why consent has not been gained:
- The steps that were taken to try and get consent.
- The child’s reasons for not giving or being able to give consent (if they are known).
- Why it was necessary to share information without consent.
Continued responsibility of members of the public who report a cause for concern
If a member of the public has reported concerns about a child, they, in legal terms, have no continued responsibility once the report has been made. They do not even need to identify themselves, as such a report can be made anonymously. Ethically, however, they may wish to make themselves known so that they can be available to answer any questions that may come up if it is decided that action needs to be taken, based on what has been reported.
At any time though, members of the public can choose not to continue to cooperate with officials, as they are under no obligation to do so; this decision may or may not affect the outcome of an investigation. The individual who has made the report may fear the repercussions of having reported specific people, which is one of the reasons why they may wish to remain anonymous or no longer be involved in the process which follows.
Continued responsibility of organisations
Once an incident has been recorded, the information will be passed to an organisation’s safeguarding lead who will take the decision about whether or not the information needs to be passed to the local authority for further investigation.
From that point, if it has been decided that the information will be passed on, the safeguarding lead will play a significant part in assisting the local authority with any further enquiries and so they have continued responsibility to remain involved in the overall process.
The local authority will endeavour to get as much information about any alleged abuse and they may return to the safeguarding lead who should be available to answer any questions and to give any further details as far as they are able to do so.
The person who has taken a disclosure of abuse may be questioned in further detail about the circumstances surrounding the allegation and they may be asked for more information if the local authority feels that some of the detail on a safeguarding report is not enough to put together a clear picture of what is happening with a child.
What happens during a Section 47 enquiry?
Social workers within a local authority have statutory duties to carry out and lead Section 47 enquiries.
Others who may be involved in the enquiries include:
- The police.
- Healthcare professionals.
- Any other professional who is involved in the life of the child.
In line with relevant legislation and policy, social workers should, when carrying out a Section 47 enquiry:
- Lead the assessment in accordance with appropriate guidance.
- Carry out enquiries in a way that causes minimum distress for the child and their family.
- See the child who is subject to concern about their wishes and feelings.
- Ensure that they understand the situation in full and assess it in as much detail as possible.
- Interview the child’s parents and determine any wider social or environmental factors that might impact on them and their ability to parent their child.
- Gather information about the child’s family history.
- Analyse the findings of the assessment.
- Determine which interventions will be most effective.
- Determine the level of risk faced by the child.
Any involved healthcare professionals should:
- Undertake appropriate medical tests, examinations or observations to determine the extent to which a child’s health and/or development is being impaired.
- Provide a range of specialist assessments such as those carried out by speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
- Involve a child psychologist where there is concern about behaviour.
- Ensure all health professionals give appropriate treatment and follow up on any healthcare concerns that are identified.
The police should:
- Help agencies understand causes for concern about a child’s safety and welfare.
- Decide whether or not the circumstances need criminal proceedings to be instigated.
- Make evidence available that will inform about a child’s welfare.
- Take part in any joint interviews with the child in line with appropriate guidance.
Outcomes of a Section 47 enquiry
The outcome of a Section 47 enquiry will be one of the following three:
1. No further action – this means that no causes of concern have been identified. The child may still be classed as a ‘child in need’ but the family do not want any of the services offered to be provided to them. In this instance, the case will be closed.
2. Family support to be provided – this means that although the child has not been identified as suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, there are needs that could be met by services under the provision of Section 17 of The Children Act 1989 and the family are willing to engage with services that are offered.
3. Concerns of harm are substantiated and the child is judged to be suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. Should this be the outcome of the enquiry then an initial Child Protection Conference should be convened.
Whilst the conference is taking place any professional who is in attendance should contribute all appropriate information which is related to the enquiry that has caused the conference to come about. The nature of their involvement must be made clear to the child and their family.
Reports from social workers and other professionals must be available two working days before the conference takes place and these should set out the facts as they are known to the professional, as well as their ideas and opinions about the child’s situation.
It must be considered whether or not the reports can (and should) be shared with the parents, and if it is agreed that this is appropriate, when it should be shared.
At the conference, the view of everyone will be taken into account and notes will be taken so that there is a permanent record of what has taken place.
Child protection meeting
During a child protection meeting the person who made the referral must be able to make it clear why they decided that a referral was made and what evidence they have to justify their decision.
The outcome of a child protection meeting will usually end with one of the following two outcomes:
- A child protection plan will be drawn up and put into place.
- A court order will be applied for.
Everyone who works with a child has continued responsibility to safeguard them once a report of abuse has been recorded and referred. The way in which this will happen will very much depend on the child’s individual situation but staff must cooperate with any suggestions to keep the child safe, for example not allowing certain people to collect them from school or nursery.