Safeguarding is one of the most critically important functions of many organisations in the United Kingdom. From health and social care to education, it’s essential to keeping vulnerable people, both children and adults, safe. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to safeguarding, and it can be difficult for those new to the topic to understand what safeguarding issues are, and what the response would be from those responsible. In this article, we’re going to go through three examples of safeguarding scenarios, looking at three different types of abuse, neglect or harm, which are the main issues safeguarding is designed to prevent. These are not true case studies; they are fictional scenarios, but they are intended to help make the topic clearer. Let’s take a look.
Important: Safeguarding policy can vary significantly between organisations, industries, and under different local authorities. As a result, these examples should not be seen as guides for how cases should be handled; they are simply illustrative.
Children as a group tend to be the most vulnerable, which is why safeguarding is a policy for any type of organisation that deals with them. This of course includes nurseries, schools and other care and educational settings which are responsible for looking after children. These settings are both places in which abuse, harm and neglect must be prevented, and places in which staff can potentially identify these activities happening elsewhere.
In this scenario, we have a child called Tom. Tom regularly attends the nursery, and usually appears as a normal and generally happy child. Similarly, when employees have contact with his single father, he appears to be a typical loving parent too.
However, staff begin to notice that Tom regularly comes in with poor standards of hygiene. He may appear unwashed, and unkempt. Some days he is also wearing clothes that appear to have been worn already for several days, and they are unclean.
It is at this point that employees of the nursery begin to suspect that Tom may be suffering from neglect in some way while he is at home. Good safeguarding policy will insist that records start to be kept. One of the most important aspects of safeguarding is good record keeping, and general organisation and visibility. As a result, those who come into contact with Tom will be asked to record important information, such as the clothes he is wearing, his general cleanliness etc.
From here, it is decided that a senior member of nursery staff needs to have a discussion with Tom’s father. This is always a difficult situation and difficult conversation to have, but is nonetheless an essential one. In some cases, there are mitigating circumstances, and in others, severe cases of neglect and even abuse are uncovered.
In this example, the discussion reveals that Tom’s single parent is struggling with money and having to work lengthy hours in order to cover his outgoings. He is genuinely upset with the situation which is having an impact on his ability to properly care for Tom, but he does not know what he can do. From this point, the nursery get social workers from the local authority involved, and they help determine the best course of action to help both Tom and his father. This may include additional help with care, and also signposting Tom’s father to ensure that he is correctly claiming any financial help available from the government.
We’ve already mentioned that there are three primary issues that safeguarding aims to prevent, which are neglect, abuse and harm. Abuse does not have to be physical; it can and more often is emotional, and in this scenario we’re going to consider financial abuse, which can and does have significant emotional impact too. Safeguarding in care homes frequently involves guarding against this.
Nora is an elderly woman living in a residential home. She is mentally healthy for someone of her age, but she does suffer from certain physical ailments, including moderate arthritis and both sight and hearing loss. As a result, she needs regular care, but she chooses to be as independent as possible.
Nora is cared for very well at the residential home, and the carers that deal with her are attentive and observant. They have however noticed an increase in Nora’s irritability, confusion and occasional anger, which is out of character. One carer decides to sit down with Nora to discuss what she might be unhappy about. Nora regularly feels that certain acquaintances of her are visiting her and asking her for money which isn’t paid back or are telling her that she has already agreed to contribute money to something, making her feel guilty if she doesn’t remember. This is generally making Nora upset and feeling taken advantage of.
One of the most important aspects of safeguarding is giving vulnerable people as much control over how things are handled as possible. They should be able to make decisions as far as is reasonably possible, and everything must be communicated. The carer in question explains to Nora that she is required to keep a record of the conversation and notify her manager, but that Nora will be able to make decisions about how things proceed.
Local authorities will have different setups across the country, and in this case a representative specialist in adult safeguarding issues is asked to come in and speak to Nora. He gives her advice about how the situation can proceed. This could include someone speaking to the acquaintances in question, Nora being given the support she needs to handle the situation herself, or even the police becoming involved.
It’s decided that a council worker will speak to the people in question on Nora’s behalf. Following this, a regular review will be set up to ensure that the discussions have been effective, that Nora has full control over her finances, and she does not feel like anyone is taking advantage of her.
Safeguarding is naturally a huge consideration for not only school leaders, but every employee at the school. There are major responsibilities to think about; schools must be not only places where abuse, harm and neglect cannot take place, but they are also environments at which these issues can be identified when happening elsewhere.
The scenario is unfortunately not an uncommon one in modern schools. Bullying remains a problem at most schooling ages and is a major challenge for school leadership. While safeguarding is most often thought of as abuse from an adult to a child, or an adult to a vulnerable adult, peer on peer abuse is equally valid a concern.
In this scenario we have Alice. She is 14 and attends her local state secondary school, which she has done since she was 11. Previously, she has been a happy and healthy student, with no particular problems at home.
However, her parents have recently noticed that Alice is quiet and withdrawn. She is less likely to engage in conversation, she spends a lot of time in her room, and she is unwilling to talk at length about school activities. She has also been late for school regularly; often not arriving until after all of the other students, which has been communicated to her parents via a letter from the school.
Alice’s concerned parents decide that something may be happening at school to cause this, and therefore set up a meeting with a senior member of pastoral staff. They are not aware of any issues she is having during school time, other than occasional lateness, and as a result, Alice’s parents try to sit down again with her to discuss the problems.
It is revealed that Alice is being bullied physically by other children on her way to school. They chase and hit her, and she attempts to avoid them by going to school after everyone else. This is why she is late, and she is regularly very upset.
Alice’s parents take this information to the school. Being responsible for safeguarding issues, the school must now take whatever steps possible to resolve the issue. Headteachers have legal powers and some obligations to ensure that pupils behave outside of school - which includes on the way to and from it. The police can also be brought in if necessary.
A plan is put into place by the school and with Alice and her parent’s consent. This involves giving Alice any support she needs, as well as taking measures to ensure that the This will be regularly reviewed to ensure that Alice is safe.
Here at Virtual College, we’re proud to be specialists in delivering safeguarding training, and have a number of options for those who are looking to learn more about this important principle. Click here to see an example of one of our courses, which is designed for those working in health and social care.