In this week’s blog we are continuing our journey through the safeguarding audit.
This week we are looking at my top 10 areas you need to consider when you are looking at your safeguarding policy.
Keep it simple
This is my absolute number one when it comes to any kind of policy or document that is to be followed by staff, or students or anybody within your organization.
Don’t try to overcomplicate it with ridiculously long sentences, huge paragraphs and numbering as long as your arm. The best thing you can do when you are looking at your safeguarding policy is ask yourself: is this as simple and as straightforward as it can possibly be?
Avoid jargon and acronyms
In terms of a safeguarding policy, number two in my list is, avoid jargon. And where possible, avoid acronyms.
The world of safeguarding and child protection is filled with jargon and acronyms. It changes from school to school; college to college; organization to university. The same three letters can mean very different things to different people. One of the simplest: SCR – for most within education that means Single Central Record. But for lots of people within the world of child protection, that means Serious Case Review. Those three letters can cause utter confusion.
When you are reviewing or updating your policy look at what jargon you’re using. Ask yourself: is this something that is readily understandable by anybody that picks the policy? Or is it something that will have to be explained?
And if it needs explaining, explain it. Tell people what the acronym means, or tell them what that particular word means, so that everybody can understand it, so that there is no reason why something hasn’t been followed. Make sure when you are going through your policies, you are checking what each of these acronyms mean. What does each of those jargonistic words actually mean? And do you need to use it? If you don’t need to use it. Don’t use it, find another way, a simpler way to express what it is you mean without having lots and lots of words within it.
Put your safeguarding/child protection policy at the heart of your organisation
Your safeguarding policy should be the absolute rock bed of all of your other policies. It should sit at the centre and your staff conduct policy; behavior policy; peer on peer abuse policies, anti bullying policies etc should emanate from it.
Your safeguarding policy should sit at the heart of everything your organization is doing. Because, that way, it means that it makes it so so much easier and so much simpler to embed a culture of vigilance, a culture of understanding, a culture of caring and a culture where everybody absolutely everybody feels safe.
Be Guidance and Legislation compliant
Mmake sure that your safeguarding policy is compliant with legislation, Keeping Children Safe in Education, & compliant with Working Together to Safeguard Children.
Your policy may be reviewed annually but if there are changes in between times, you will need to make sure that your policy is updated in accordance with the legislation changes. It is not going to be sufficient to say, “Oh, well, we reviewed it in May. But then all of these changes came through in September. So we looked at it next May”
You need to make sure that your safeguarding policy is updated as and when there are legislation changes happening or guidance changes happening.
Refer to Multi-Agency Safeguarding Arrangements
Make sure in your review, you have got the right multi agency safeguarding arrangements set out within your policy. Remember multi agency safeguarding arrangements will be set by your local safeguarding partnership. You will need to ensure that your policy refers to those correct processes.
You might refer to them in your procedure, which we’ll be looking at next week, but, as part of your policy, you will need to make sure that you’re referring to the correct processes for multi agency as set out within your local safeguarding partnership.
Make your policy easily accessible
Is it easy for your staff to find and access your policy?
Or is this a policy that is very rarely shared?
Your policy should be accessed by everyone. It should be easy and simple to do. everyone should know where to find it. How is it possible for staff to follow something, if they don’t know where it is?
Consider where to store it – Is it in a an online drive somewhere that is easily accessible? Maybe you’re using something like Microsoft Teams, so can it be on a team site for your safeguarding stuff? Is it easily accessible for all other staff to access, remembering that as part of their updates.
They need to make sure that they understand the policy and that they read part one of keeping children safe in education. So, that will be something that will be looked at by Ofsted. Make sure that your policy is somewhere that is easily accessible by all staff.
Key persons details
Wwhen you’re reviewing your safeguarding policy as part of your safeguarding audit, does your policy have the details of key persons within it?
By that I mean, does it say clearly who the designated safeguarding lead is within your organization?
Does it set out who the deputy designated safeguarding lead is?
Does it set out how to contact them where they are best?
If you are a bigger organization and you have a number of safeguarding officers, consider whether or not it’s appropriate to have their contact details within the documentation.
Remember as part of Keeping Children Safe in Education, Designated Safeguarding Leads have to be contactable at all times during term time. If you are an organization that works through the summer, your Designated Safeguarding Lead must be available or at least contactable if anything should arise.
So, are their details within that policy? Are they easily accessible? Are they easily contactable? If not, you may need to review that process to ensure that you are compliant with that.
Review your review process
It sounds a bit weird saying this given you’re going through a safeguarding audit. Check what your review processes are for your safeguarding policy.
Is it an annual review? Is it done by one person? Two people? Who are they? What are their roles? Do you get governance involved? Do you have trustees involved in that review process? What does it look like? And how frequently does it take place?
Remember within Keeping Children Safe in Education, these safeguarding policies, or child protection policies should be reviewed at least annually.
Do you have a mechanism in place to alert you that the policy is coming up for review? Or are you relying on memory or somebody to input it into a calendar, which could easily fall foul of human error? Check how that’s happening? What are the steps involved? What are the things that are going on there in terms of that review process?
How is your policy approved?
In reviewing Child Protection processes, do you have a process for having this policy approved? You should make sure that there is at least somebody else who is checking through the policy to make sure that it is compliant. They should also check it works and meets the other criteria that I’ve talked about earlier.
it is so easy, when reviewing our own work, to miss something or to persuade yourself what you have written is easily understood. We can miss the glaringly obvious and we need somebody else who’s not attached to the writing of that policy or the reviewing of that document to check whether or not that policy is simple/straightforward. To check it is jargon free? That it talks about multi agency safeguarding arrangements and that it fit with your other policies. Also, to consider if it throwing up issues with some of your other policies that you’ve got.
Check it is being followed
There is no point in a policy if it is not being followed. Take some time and do some dip surveys yourself. Check that people understand where they can find it, check that they can access it easily check that they understand the importance of it. Do they know how often it’s reviewed? Do they know who the safeguarding lead is? Do they know who they contact? Do they know where it’s kept? All of those things.
Make sure that you are satisfied that your staff, regardless of your organization, understand the importance of this policy, whether you call it a safeguarding policy or a Child Protection Policy. For me, it matters not. Keeping Children Safe in Education talks about a Child Protection Policy. So if you’re compelled to be compliant with Keeping Children Safe in Education, you may wish to call it a Child Protection Policy.
What matters is, is it being followed because policy is only as good as the last person or the weakest link. In the chain to follow it, if it is difficult to follow if it is full of jargon, if it is full of acronyms or there are old details within it that have never been updated, then it will be really difficult to follow and as a consequence, it will not be followed. And therefore, you are not able to put safeguarding at the heart of your organization, nor are you going to be able to protect those as well as you need to for whom you have responsibility.
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The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Safeguarding Practitioners Ltd & Kate Young disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.
When I became a policy writer some years ago I recall being told the same advice as you have kindly provided above. One of the other key things I was told is that the policy should not be more than 4 sides of A4, it sets out your organisations ‘intention’ with regard to what you intend to have in place to fulfill your safeguarding duty, there would be a number of headings used to help know what to include. Then the procedure sets out the ‘How’ in terms of how your intention will be implemented, what strategies (procedure) you have in place to comply with safer recruitment / reporting concerns/ etc etc Me experience has identified that many organisations assume the policy is the procedure when they should be two separate documents.
Thanks Ann. Yes, a policy and procedure should be 2 documents. I’d love to see all policies no longer than 4 sides of A4 – some are far, far too long. Sadly, this means they aren’t referred to as often as they should be as they are too cumbersome to navigate.