Nursery Management

Safeguarding in Early Years – Does your strategy go far enough?

  • Safeguarding in Early Years – Does your strategy go far enough?

Looking after the health and wellbeing of the children in our care should never be a matter of box-ticking, insists Ann Marie Christian…

Working in the early years sector is undoubtedly rewarding; we spend five days a week, long hour shifts and years at a time with babies and infants, at the most important stage of their lives.

We see them flourish and ensure they are ready for school when they leave us to start the next chapter of their lives.

And above all, we keep them safe.

We must constantly remind ourselves that babies and infants are in the vulnerable group of child protection according to NSPCC research.

They have limited language, mobility and understanding of harmful and abusive behaviours.

They are reliant on the adults around them to care for them, keep them safe, meet their basic needs and show emotional warmth.

A golden thread

Child protection and safeguarding should be a golden thread throughout any setting, to create and maintain a safe culture of reporting.

All staff should be familiar with the terms, definition and expectations required in the setting.

New employees, agency workers and visitors should be informed about the setting’s policy, procedures, and protocols on how to report abuse, and to whom, before they start their role.

Induction should cover key policies including child protection, intimate care, staff code of conduct and online safety.

Schools and colleges must follow the government’s statutory safeguarding guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022, at all times.

In fact, all childcare providers should refer to this as an essential document, with staff reading part one and signing a document to state they fully understand their role in keeping children safe.

Annual training should be undertaken by everyone working in the setting, with regular updates periodically over the year, ensuring everyone knows how to spot signs and report concerned to the named safeguarding leads.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory guidance has specific safeguarding and welfare requirements and steps that providers must take to keep children safe.

Your setting’s child protection and safeguarding policy should be embedded in practice, protocols, and procedure, from recruiting staff through to reporting allegations to the LADO.

It needs to be a whole team approach. All staff must know what child abuse is, how to report it and in what format, and know who in the setting is the named designated lead in child protection and the deputy.

Moreover, this should be understood in the specific context of each setting.

Is there a particular issue in your region with affluent neglect, for example? Or alcohol use, or poverty? Is everyone aware?

Taking the lead

Working Together to Safeguard Children, 2018, is the DfE’s statutory guidance on interagency working to safeguard children.

It clearly states that every childcare setting must have a named Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) and safeguarding policy, and vet people appropriately.

It needs to be a whole team approach

The DSL must attend appropriate training in accordance with local authority procedures, and know how to refer suspected child abuse to the local authority of where the child resides.

The DSL leads on child protection in the setting and should be part of the senior leadership team.

He/she makes decisions on child protection concerns and referrals, ensures all staff have attended child protection training and knows how to report concerns about staff both in the setting and to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).

The DSL will have a secure child protection filing system where confidential information about children is held and which can be appropriately passed on to a new setting when a child moves on.

All staff in the setting, including admin and supply, must be vetted according to their role and level of direct contact with children.

The Disclosure Barring Service advises settings on this.

All we do

Thresholds of child protection interventions are complex, and determined by children social care when referrals are called in by the setting.

A child likely to suffer significant harm or being at risk of significant harm is the threshold defined in The Children Act 1989.

However, when thresholds have not been met, the setting may be still expected to start an Early Help Assessment (EHA).

This is local support offered by additional services on a voluntary basis and consent is required from the family.

DSLs are expected to know the local support - this can be found on the local authority website and by attending relevant training on early help.

DSLs need to ensure safeguarding is embedded across everything that happens in the setting.

It should be a standing agenda item on various meetings – for example, appraisals, governance meetings and staff weekly briefings.

When recruiting, safeguarding and child protection should be spread across the whole process from the advert, job description and person specification, through face to face interviews and reference requests, to staff induction and probation periods.

Safeguarding also sits strategically across governance or proprietor levels, ensuring that safeguarding is always effective according to the law.

The board must have a link governor, often known as the safeguarding governor, who supports, scrutinises, and ensures safeguarding is operational across the setting.

They should have regular contact with the DSL and feel confident the DSL is competent in his/her role.

11 essential safeguarding ingredients

1. Have laminated posters with photos and contact details of the named Designated Safeguarding Lead and deputies, the link (safeguarding) governor, the manager for reporting of staff and named Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) across the setting; in the reception area and every room.

2. Have a safeguarding tab on your website, outlining your commitment to safeguarding and working in partnership with the local procedures, and signposting families to early help programmes - for example, parenting programmes or children’s centre activities.

3. Update staff on safeguarding and child protection training at least annually, with refreshers on specific themes every few months, for example, neglect, trauma informed practice and so on.

4. Revise the safeguarding policies at least annually.

5. Create a safeguarding team that meets at least fortnightly to discuss children of concern and review actions etc.

6. Review the impact of the safeguarding policies, for example, the volume of reported child protection concerns and concerns raised about adults in the setting.

7. Sign up to government updates and newsletters relating to safeguarding, legislation, and guidance.

8. Follow influencers, key organisations, leaders, and child protection experts on social media for regular professional updates on themes and new challenges.

9. Ensure you practice multi-agency working. Are there other professionals working with this family? Health colleague? Voluntary sector? Social worker from adult social care?

10. Support the DSL to create an ongoing culture of raising the awareness of safeguarding and child protection.

11. Understand GDPR and data protection in relation to child protection and collating confidential information about families.

Ann Marie Christian is an international safeguarding consultant.