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What is safeguarding?

schedule 9th January 2017 by Alex Bateman in Safeguarding

What is safeguarding

Why is safeguarding important?

Safeguarding is aimed at protecting vulnerable children or adults from abuse and neglect in all circumstances. Safeguarding means putting processes in place to ensure that vulnerable people are not abused in any way, including verbally or physically. This includes all procedures designed to prevent harm, also refers to the process of protecting children and adults - by providing safe and effective care.

Safeguarding as a general concept is to protect people from harm and the best way to do that is to put appropriate measures in place. This often comes in the form of a framework, which allows those involved to follow certain steps and prevent negative outcomes in a tried and tested manner.

When is safeguarding used?

Knowing about safeguarding and being trained in its implementation is a very useful skill to have. This is partly due to the fact that it can be used in a number of wide-reaching situations. The first, of course, is when looking after vulnerable people. Within this area there are several subcategories, such as children, older people and those with learning difficulties.

It is vitally important that anyone who is seen as vulnerable is protected, although all people within hierarchical structures should also be looked after. A common example of this is the workplace, where safeguarding helps to ensure that employees are not exploited or taken advantage of.

Six key Safeguarding principles

These are the six key principles outlined in the 2014 Care Act

  • Empowerment- People being supported and encouraged to make their own decisions and informed consent.
  • Prevention- It is better to take action before harm occurs.
  • Proportionality- The least intrusive response appropriate to the risk presented.
  • Protection- Support and representation for those in greatest need.
  • Partnership- Local solutions through services working with their communities. Communities have a part to play in preventing, detecting and reporting neglect and abuse.
  • Accountability- Accountability and transparency in safeguarding practice.

What constitutes abuse?

In order to fully understand safeguarding and the role it plays, it is important to know what constitutes abuse. It can be verbal, physical, sexual, emotional, financial or even neglect and can lead to the victim being hurt, upset, frightened or manipulated into doing something they know is wrong or do not want to do. Another issue is that the person subjected to the abuse may find it hard to report the matter.

Types of Abuse and Neglect

Abuse can happen in many different forms and people often suffer multiple types of abuse at once. It is crucial to be able to identify what type of abuse someone is suffering in order to get the appropriate help as quickly as possible.


  • Discriminatory abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Financial or material abuse
  • Modern slavery
  • Neglect and acts of omission
  • Organisational abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Self-neglect
  • Sexual abuse


  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse

Ways of safeguarding people

There are lots of ways to safeguard vulnerable people, but here are some of the most common forms:

  • Analysing available information to decide on the level of risk posed
  • Forwarding any concerns onto local authorities and the police
  • Asking vulnerable people if they have any safeguarding concerns
  • Carrying out investigations into safeguarding and writing reports into the findings
  • Taking action in any areas where safeguarding is failing vulnerable people


Since 2006, it has been enshrined in law that vulnerable people are kept safe. The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act was passed in the wake of the Soham murders, when the two victims were targeted by their school caretaker. It also led to the foundation of the Independent Safeguarding Authority, which ensures that those on lists barring them from working with vulnerable groups, including children, cannot gain employment in places where they would come into contact with them.

Working together to safeguard children

Anyone who has been working with children in the last decade or so is likely to be aware of Working Together to Safeguard Children – the government’s key document for everyone who works with, or carries out work related to, children. It provides parameters for inter-agency working and promoting the welfare of children from all backgrounds and in all settings. To get the latest updates on this publication read our article explaining the latest update.

The mental capacity act and deprivation of liberty

People who lack the mental capacity to consent to essential care or treatment may need to be placed in a care home or hospital to receive the care or treatment they need, however, a lack of mental capacity must be established before this can happen. This may be if it is felt the risk is too high if you stay where you are and all other alternatives have been explored to assist you to stay there. If this is not possible, the DoLS protect the rights of these individuals when they are detained in a care home or hospital. For more information on the mental capacity act and deprivation of liberty read our full article.

Responsibility of employers

The emphasis is still on employers to make sure that they are not hiring anyone inappropriate to work with vulnerable people. This includes carrying out police checks on all potential staff and volunteers, before they are left alone with children, elderly people and those with learning difficulties.

Their responsibility goes further still, as someone who has been checked could still harm a vulnerable person for the first time. If this is the case, it is not simply enough to terminate that persons employment, as they also have a duty to inform the Independent Safeguarding Authority, who can ensure such behaviour does not happen again.


Related resources

Alex Bateman - Virtual College

Author: Alex Bateman

Alex is interested in the strategic application of learning and development. In particular how organisations can promote engagement with ongoing learning campaigns. He spends his spare time renovating his Victorian house. Ask him about his floors, I dare you.

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