Last updated: 06.03.18

Pivotal year for the safeguarding sector in 2018

Standards and regulations are evolving in the safeguarding sector, so it's vital that professionals make sure they are up-to-date on these trends.

The safeguarding sector has always been one of the most strenuously regulated professional disciplines and most working in this field will implicitly understand why that has to be the case.

Safeguarding professionals play a critical role in protecting the health, wellbeing and rights of vulnerable children and adults, so it's essential that the sector is governed by watertight rules and standards to prevent at-risk individuals from experiencing further poor treatment at the hands of a system designed to help them. In 2018, many of these standards and regulations are being revised or updated to ensure they are fulfilling this purpose.

As such, managers will need to ensure they have made the necessary investment in learning and development to provide their staff with a firm understanding of any changes that might occur. This will ensure that vulnerable people are able to continue receiving the highest standard of safeguarding care throughout 2018 and beyond.

New updates to safeguarding guidance

This year looks set to be significant in terms of updates to official guidance on best practice within the safeguarding sector, with the government and charitable organisations both looking at new ways of ensuring their guidance is fit for purpose.

To support this aim, the government launched a consultation last year to gather opinions on Working Together to Safeguard Children, the statutory guidance used to coordinate approaches to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. More than 700 stakeholders responded, offering a wide range of feedback on potential changes.

Key findings from the consultation included a desire for schools to play a greater role in safeguarding; for seniority and expertise to be more greatly emphasised for safeguarding partners; for the responsibilities of relevant agencies to be clarified; for the current review process to be made clearer and for proposed changes to the system for child death reviews to be amended, so as not to overtax the system.

The government will be reviewing the findings of this consultation this year, with the goal of bringing any necessary changes into law, so professionals would be well-advised to keep tabs on how this is proceeding. At the same time, many organisations are still acclimating themselves to the new safeguarding standards and guidance introduced by the NSPCC last year, underlining the importance of ongoing training to keep pace with these trends.

A unified response among charities to the Oxfam scandals

A key reason why improved safeguarding standards are receiving a lot of coverage at the moment is a need among those in the sector to present a strong response to the recent scandals involving Oxfam, which has been accused of sexual impropriety among workers on a number of occasions in recent months.

Last year, the charity hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when sexual abuse and exploitation accusations against key staff members were widely reported by the press; its reputation has since taken another hit after further allegations surfaced, suggesting that vulnerable victims of the Haiti earthquake had been taken advantage of by aid workers.

Naturally, staff in the charity sector will be keen to draw a line under these scandals, as evidenced by the Charity Commission calling on all charities to review their safeguarding and governance arrangements in response to the first wave of allegations last year. Incidents of this kind represent the worst possible failure of safeguarding standards and the focus is now on the industry to show they have learned from Oxfam's mistakes.

Getting ready for GDPR

One of the biggest regulatory changes affecting the safeguarding sector in 2018 is one that will have an impact on all organisations, regardless of their size or background. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is coming into effect on May 25th and will represent a paradigm shift in the way data security is regulated worldwide.

The new law affects every organisation holding personal data on an EU citizen – regardless of whether the body is based in the EU or not – and will introduce stringent new rules of consent relating to the use and storage of sensitive information, as well as creating new requirements to report data breaches. Failure to adhere to these laws could result in significant fines.

The GDPR's imminent debut is big news for every professional, but particularly so for those in charge of safeguarding, given that their work is most likely to involve processing data on vulnerable individuals. It is vital that this kind of sensitive information is never compromised or misused, lest these organisations be accused of failing to uphold their most vital principles.

As such, 2018 could be a pivotal year for the safeguarding sector – one in which it's never been more important to invest in training to ensure the many essential changes taking place can be implemented with a minimum of fuss.


Related resources