When you first think about safeguarding, you’ll likely think about the groups of people that are most commonly protected by official procedures and legislation. This might include children and young people, the elderly, and vulnerable adults such as those with a disability or health condition that requires care.
But anyone can experience abuse, mistreatment or circumstances that impact their health and wellbeing, and anyone can benefit from safeguarding procedures that are used to intervene or offer support. ‘Safeguarding everyone’ is a type of safeguarding that highlights the fact that anyone can be affected by safeguarding issues and recognises that safeguarding professionals may need to support other adults they meet as part of their role.
In this article, we explain the principles behind safeguarding everyone, some of the differences between safeguarding children and adults, and explore why it’s important to safeguard everyone and what this can involve.
Safeguarding means putting processes in place to ensure that vulnerable people are not abused in any way. These processes protect people’s rights, health and wellbeing by ensuring that there are measures in place to spot the signs of abuse and take action to eradicate this and stop abuse from happening in the first place.
When we talk about safeguarding we often focus on vulnerable groups like children or the elderly, but every person can require safeguarding in the event of abuse or mistreatment. Everybody has a safeguarding responsibility, but those that work in industries where they interact with vulnerable groups in particular, such as education, healthcare or social care, are legally required to take action to safeguard everyone.
Safeguarding is often separated into two distinct groups – safeguarding children and safeguarding adults. But if your role involves safeguarding, it likely brings you in touch with more people than just the individuals you may be working with – other adults and children that may also need safeguarding.
Let's consider an example. Imagine a social worker, Jade, who works closely with a child, Ross. But lately, when Jade visits Ross’ house, she notices signs of domestic abuse against the mother, as well as abuse of an elderly adult.
Whilst Jade’s primary responsibility is helping Ross, she should report the suspected abuse to her colleagues and contact the relevant agencies that help with adult and domestic abuse, so that the other family members get the help they need.
Overall, it is important for practitioners to always ensure the safety and security of anyone they meet as part of their role – it is part of their responsibility. Therefore, even if a practitioner’s main focus is on a certain member of a family, they need to be aware of any issues within that family and ensure action is taken or a referral is made to safeguard the entire household.
To achieve this, it is important to have effective crossover between different safeguarding areas and make sure there is joint working between different agencies. This helps to deliver effective support to everyone involved and also makes it less likely that safeguarding intervention will be required again in the future.
Though safeguarding anyone – whether children or adults – has the same overarching aim to protect from harm or damage whilst taking appropriate actions, there are two fundamental differences between the two groups that need to be understood, and which will come in use when considering safeguarding everyone.
An important difference between safeguarding children and adults is the types of abuse you must be aware of. Though the types of abuse you need to look out for in relation to children do crossover into adults, the list of types of abuse for adults is much longer.
The main types of safeguarding that affect adults and children include:
Types of abuse that only affect adults are:
Whilst there may be overlap between the common types of abuse that children and adults experience, it’s also important to note that the signs of these kinds of abuse will present differently in children and adults. Both groups may attempt to hide what they are experiencing, but related symptoms could show up in different ways.
You will also have to approach discussions of each type of abuse differently with adults and children. Both groups should be given autonomy, respect and dignity in every case, but children that are being abused may require additional support.
The law for child protection differs from the law for adult protection. There is no piece of law that is specifically for ‘safeguarding everyone’ but there are different pieces of legislation for safeguarding children and adults.
Other pieces of safeguarding legislation that are worthy of note are:
The general premise of safeguarding is the same no matter who it involves, but it’s important to understand which pieces of legislation dictate what you need to do when abuse is suspected and what the legal consequences of different kinds of abuse are.
As we’ve already touched upon, safeguarding everyone is about acknowledging and being aware of the fact that the impact of abuse can spread further than just a single individual. Whilst vulnerable groups like children and the elderly are more likely to need support and protection, safeguarding professionals may discover other people that need support when they’re working on a case.
Outside of the people you are supporting, the role of safeguarding everyone means that you must know how to assess who may be vulnerable and why. Once you are aware of this, you can be aware of anything relating to them that may be cause for concern.
For example, does anyone in a family have mental health issues? Or has someone recently left, or is trying to leave an abusive relationship? Is anyone frail or disabled? Does anyone have substance misuse problems? Or have a lack of mental awareness, such as dementia?
Being aware of how someone could be vulnerable is a good step toward safeguarding everyone. You should always prioritise protecting and supporting the individual you have been sent to work with, but also have a responsibility to notify other agencies of other people that may also require support.
Safeguarding everyone is important because it means that everyone can be given the help they need to experience good health and wellbeing and properly exercise their rights as an individual. It considers everyone involved in safeguarding situations and works to ensure that nobody continues to suffer after an intervention is given.
The multi-agency approach involved in safeguarding everyone is also an important part because it creates a much more effective support system that allows help to be given to everyone that needs it faster. Instead of one person trying to handle multiple issues, the premise behind safeguarding everyone is that different people have different needs and these should be dealt with through multiple social and health services.
Multi-agency work is an important part of safeguarding everyone, as it allows multiple people to be given support in tandem with one another to work towards a common goal. For example, in a family where a child is at risk of neglect, a caregiver may require medical intervention to allow them to properly care for their family, or other children may be discovered to be suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues.
If you work in child social services, it is your job to support the child in question and bring in the necessary support to improve their situation. This may also require supporting the child’s caregiver and other members of the family, which often needs other local services to get involved.
Multi-agency work also takes the pressure of reporting and handling multiple concerts off a single person, allowing help to be given faster and more efficiently. If one safeguarding investigation highlights that multiple people may be vulnerable or in need of support, relevant agencies can be brought in to investigate these cases and give them each the attention they need.
Protection in safeguarding is what you offer individuals that are at risk of abuse or are already suffering from some kind of mistreatment. It means stopping them from experiencing further harm, whether this involves removing them from a home environment, getting the abuser removed or providing support and advocacy so that the abuse doesn’t happen again.
A safeguarding concern is what you raise if you are worried that an individual is at risk of abuse or neglect or is already being abused or neglected. These concerns might not have solid proof that mistreatment is taking place, but when raised they tend to prompt further investigation to find out what is actually happening in a situation.
Safeguarding concerns should either be reported to a designated safeguarding lead or safeguarding officer, or they should be reported to the social services department of the local council. However, if you have a serious safeguarding concern and believe that someone is in imminent danger, you are advised to call the police on 999 and inform them of your concerns so they can take immediate action.
Safeguarding everyone requires an understanding that the aims of safeguarding are to protect everyone you have contact with in a safeguarding role, not just the people that you are responsible for. Safeguarding issues can range from cases of abuse to instances where someone simply isn’t getting the support they need in order to live their life, and it’s important to remember that the impact of these cases often affects multiple people.
If you’re looking for a Safeguarding Everyone training course, we offer online Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 courses that cover how you can protect everyone you come into contact with whilst working in a role with a safeguarding responsibility.