Safeguarding: beyond ticking the box

Effective safeguarding is more than paperwork, it is an attitude and a set of deeply held and adhered to beliefs about the value of all, says Dr Sarah Carlick, managing director at The Athena Programme.

A culture of governance and effective safeguarding practices requires consistency of rhetoric and action. Robust governance, a lead trustee for safeguarding, the chief executive’s commitment and leadership, safeguarding champions, training and development for staff and volunteers, DBS disclosure checks, risk register… the key phrases we are familiar with. But how do you turn worthy statements, policies, values, mission statements and good intentions into safeguarding best practice and a safer culture?

Safeguarding compliance can quickly become a tick box exercise dominated by timescales for referrals, completed record forms and detailed chronologies. These are essential for effective safeguarding practice but there is a danger that the paraphernalia of an organisation’s safeguarding system(s) can hinder the creation of a true safeguarding culture.

It is all too easy to become so bogged down in paperwork that you lose sight of its purpose. It is all too easy to believe that if the paperwork is there, all must be well. Do not think because a box is ticked that safeguarding processes are happening. Think about how your daily conversations link to safeguarding? Where and how is it crossed referenced? Does that enable gaps to be identified within the organisation?

Effective safeguarding is more than paperwork, it is an attitude and a set of deeply held and adhered to beliefs about the value of all. It needs those value mantras to be lived in the daily life of the organisation and embedded into its core.

It requires a determined mindset and ownership of its values and behaviours by all trustees, staff and volunteers. This means everyone, not just those involved in activities and events service delivery, but also back office staff, being willing and able to listen to children and adults at risk and respond appropriately to what they say. It means that the staff and volunteers need to be confident that managers will take them seriously and act on their concerns about the welfare and safety of children and adults at risk.

The role of the trustees, and especially the trustee appointed to lead and shape safeguarding practices, are fundamental for this agenda. Together the CEO, chair and lead trustee should act as the guiding light, championing safeguarding by being proactive, questioning, challenging, and at times, being critical of practice. Think about seamless approaches of safeguarding children and adults at risk, consider reputational risks, third-party contractor relationships, volunteer journeys, updating training, trustee and staff handbooks, electronic alerts and sharing best practice. Be innovative, be different, input or make available sufficient resources, seek independent advice, conduct a review or an internal audit, and develop safer practice guidelines. Create a safeguarding organisational action plan that the trustees and senior management share responsibility and work together to implement.

Remember that there is no completion date when it comes to safeguarding, thinking about safeguarding as a process of continuous improvement will enrich the lives of those your organisation works so hard to deliver services too.

The Athena Programme team has direct experience and knowledge of designing and delivering safeguarding training programmes across ten different sectors. They can make sure that you are fully compliant and we’ll optimise your people and resources. Get in touch.

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

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