Safeguarding in the Workplace
Safeguarding is the practice of ensuring that vulnerable people have their health, well-being and rights protected in society. This means ensuring that they don’t suffer from things like neglect or abuse, and in the case of children, can grow up in an environment that ensures they get everything they need to be healthy and happy. In this article, we’re going to consider what safeguarding means in the workplace - what it covers, and what employees need to do.
Who Needs Safeguarding?
While safeguarding is most commonly used in regards to children and young people, it can in fact apply to anyone, and is designed to cater to all ethnicities, genders and religions. Aside from minors, the next largest group of people that require the most consideration, are vulnerable adults. Examples of vulnerable adults include the elderly, those with mental health issues, learning disabilities, or physical disabilities. Anyone who requires any kind of care is likely to be considered vulnerable, and therefore requires some form of safeguarding. If you work in a care home, in any kind of healthcare setting, or somewhere that delivers education, then there is a very good chance that you work somewhere in which you need to think about safeguarding.
What Does Safeguarding Mean in Practice?
While safeguarding might seem complex at first, the vast majority of what it covers are things that most people would consider to be perfectly common elements of giving care to someone. If you work somewhere with vulnerable people, or manage a business that does this, the chances are that you’re already doing most if not all of the things that good safeguarding requires. In practice, some of the main things that safeguarding involves will include the following:
- Health - This one is fairly straightforward, though it’s not always known as a part of safeguarding. Any vulnerable person should have their health needs catered to as best as possible. If you work in education, then this could mean ensuring that students are easily able to take any medication they require. Alternatively, when looking after children, you should promote their health by making sure that they are eating healthy foods.
- Safety - Physical safety in what is your workplace, and their care setting, is very important too. Children for instance need to be kept away from hazards, such as those found in the kitchen. Disabled adults need to be given the right equipment to go about their day safely, such as having access to a disabled-friendly toilet.
- Discrimination - Vulnerable people from certain ethnic or religious backgrounds can sometimes come across discrimination. It is your responsibility while looking after such people to ensure that they are not discriminated against, or placed into a discriminatory environment. Where this does happen, you must take steps to report and resolve the issue.
- Abuse - Potentially the most significant consideration of safeguarding, abuse can take numerous forms, ranging to physical child abuse, to the financial abuse of a vulnerable elderly person. You must make all efforts to ensure that abuse does not happen while a child or vulnerable adult is in your care, and crucially, you must report it to the relevant authorities if you suspect it is happening outside your care.
There are lots of different ways of making sure that you adhere to these responsibilities, some of which will cover multiple considerations at once. One of the biggest for instance will be safe recruitment. If you run the business, or are responsible for recruitment, then you must ensure that people you are hiring are suitable. This will likely mean conducting a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
What Are Your Legal Safeguarding Responsibilities?
Safeguarding as an initiative is covered by several laws and legal frameworks, which you should be aware of, though they may not correspond directly to your responsibilities, depending on your role. Safeguarding has no centralised set of laws for all scenarios. It is very important to receive training to understand any particular legal requirements that apply to you, which we’ll cover later.
For children, the Children Act 2004 is arguably the main piece of legislation that details the safeguarding responsibilities of local authorities. However, there is a large body of legislation that may be important depending on your role and place of work. The NSPCC provides a list of relevant laws here.
For vulnerable adults in England, the relevant piece of legislation is the Care Act 2014. This act took many of the guidelines that had been in place previously in several government initiatives, and enshrined them into the law. You can read in detail what this covers by visiting the Government’s legislation portal here. Note that in Wales, the Social Services and Well-being Act 2014 applies, which can be read here.
These pieces of legislation are primarily about the responsibilities of local authorities and public social services, but they are nonetheless useful.
How Can You Find Out More?
Effective safeguarding can sometimes be complex, which is why it’s strongly advised, and in many cases mandated, that anyone working with vulnerable people, whether child or adult, should undertake some form of training on the subject. In nurseries for instance there must be a qualified and designated safeguarding employee at all times.
Virtual College is pleased to be able to offer a very large number of courses in safeguarding, that cover a range of sectors and job roles, from dealing with recruitment in nurseries, to treating dementia sufferers with the care they need. Click here to find out more.
Your local authority will have a department dedicated to safeguarding. They will be able to help you decide what training you may need to undertake as part of your employment or running of a business.