What is a Safeguarding Audit and Why do you need one?
What is safeguarding and why is it important?
Safeguarding is a hugely important principle in many places of work. In short, it is about ensuring that the health and well being of people - usually those who are young or vulnerable - is protected by keeping them safe from abuse and neglect.
It’s so important that there are laws that require it to be carried out, and both local authorities and a central body (the Disclosure and Barring Service) regulate it. From nurseries to care homes, within the police and health service, safeguarding policies can be found everywhere.
However, there’s no set structure for all organisations, which means that all are free to generate their own policies provided they meet various requirements set by authorities. As a result, it’s very important that organisations continually improve on their safeguarding policies, to ensure that they’re as effective as possible. With this in mind, many will carry out a safeguarding audit. This is designed to appraise the measures currently in place to ensure that they’re up to standard and effective. Similarly, new businesses and organisations will need to carry out a comprehensive assessment of their operations, and how safeguarding will come into play, before they open. Both an audit and assessment are likely to cover very similar things, but in this article we’re going to look at things from the perspective of existing organisations.
The importance of auditing
Auditing is seen as an essential part of good safeguarding policy, because the risks of having an ineffective policy are considerable, the whole process can be complex, and requires significant effort to get right. Without regular auditing of procedure, it can be difficult to establish whether or not safeguarding policy is working. It’s all too easy to put in place procedures without later appraising their effectiveness, and regular auditing should combat this.
How can an audit be carried out?
Auditing can be carried out by members of the organisation, or it might even be done by an external party. Again, there are no set rules countrywide; it’s about doing what those who are responsible, think is best. Many local authorities have safeguarding checklists that will help with an audit, depending on the type of organisation, and in many cases these will be mandatory, on a yearly or two-yearly basis. These will go through the main issues that need to be considered if a sound policy is in place, and are a good inspiration for how to conduct and document an audit. You’ll go through each element, appraise how well the organisation is doing in that respect, and then note down any improvements that need to be made. To get an idea of what an audit document might look like, take a look at Wigan Council’s PDF for Early Years Providers.
Safeguarding audits are all about ensuring that policy is as good as it can be, and that those subject to it are following it properly. The main question that should be answered is whether or not the policy is resulting in safety for vulnerable people, and if there are problems, an audit should help identify and remedy them. There are many different considerations involved in a sound and comprehensive audit, and there isn’t necessarily a list that will work for all organisations. However, there are some key points to think about. We’re going to go through the most important ones below, but you can also get an idea of what’s involved by searching for audit tools for your local authority.
This is something that will be done before you even have a safeguarding policy in place, but it’s also something worth reviewing from time to time. In order to safeguard properly, you need to know exactly where the risks lie. Who is at risk of harm, abuse or neglect that you’re responsible for? Where might these risks come from? Have any new risks arisen since your policy was put in place?
There will need to be a section that ensures that all specific issues of compliance are met. There will be various legal requirements that apply to your organisation depending on what it is that you do, and who is in your care. Make sure that these are fully understood and being adhered to.
In order for individuals and organisations to be sure that they’re properly safeguarding those in their care, it’s essential that the safeguarding policy is both sound and understood. All possible elements of safeguarding need to be detailed in readily available documents, and those involved need to have comprehensive knowledge of this. Similarly, this policy needs to be communicated to any other relevant parties, such as the parents of vulnerable children. Related to this is the issue of record keeping. When it comes to spotting neglect and abuse in particular, good record keeping is essential. Any organisation, whether a small nursery or large hospital, needs to have a good method for recording information, that anyone relevant can use.
However, it’s very important to note that the sensitive nature of safeguarding information means that robust IT policies must be in place to ensure that only the right people have access, and that there’s no risk of losing data.
As well as making efforts to ensure that safeguarding principles are followed, sound policy needs to have mechanisms within it for raising concerns where staff feel that harm, abuse or neglect could be occurring, or may occur. During an audit, you may need to speak to those on the ground for their input. Do they feel as though they’ve been able to raise concerns effectively? Have concerns been dealt with appropriately?
Staff working with vulnerable people are those on the front lines, and they will all need to play their part in ensuring that vulnerable people are free to live their lives without abuse, neglect or harm. As a result, they will form an important part of your safeguarding audit. Questions you might ask may include the following; Are there enough staff to deal with safeguarding obligations? Is there an individual or group responsible for certain aspects of safeguarding? Are staff trained in safeguarding and the relevant policies and processes? Do you need any bespoke safeguarding training?
Safe recruitment is one of the major principles of safeguarding, as bringing in new employees means bringing in people who are going to be working with vulnerable individuals, and you must ensure they’re fit to do the job. In this part of the audit you’ll need to check that you have all of the right processes in pace, such as getting DBS checks.
This point will vary hugely depending on the location, but it’s nonetheless important to cover. When auditing a safeguarding policy, you need to understand exactly how the place in which you, your colleagues or staff work, affects the wellbeing of those being cared for within it. Security is of a particular concern, so you should be checking to ensure that you’ve made all the right considerations, which means looking at everything from door security, to visitor passes and more. Again, it always helps to determine whether things have been effective. Have you had any issues with people gaining unauthorised entry? Have individuals gone missing at any time?
Further resources and training
There are plenty of resources available to help those that are working on their safeguarding policy and processes. All local authorities will have departments whose responsibility it is to monitor safeguarding, and they will generally be the first point of call for those with questions. Broader governing bodies for schools, nurseries, care homes and more will all also be useful, sources of information.
Here at Virtual College, we’re also pleased to be able to offer safeguarding online training - there are dozens to choose from covering multiple industries, job roles, initiatives and more.