National Safeguarding Week takes place on an annual basis to raise awareness and reinforce that safeguarding is everyone's responsibility. This year's Safeguarding Week is 18 November to 22 November 2019, with events taking place that highlight:

  • the impact of safeguarding
  • how to recognise concerns
  • what actions you can take when concerned

In this article, we answer the basic questions of what is safeguarding.

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What is safeguarding?

Safeguarding is the actions taken to promote the welfare of an individual and to prevent them from harm.

Who can be affected?

Safeguarding can affect any child or adult.

Some individuals are more vulnerable than others as they are within risk groups. These vulnerable people are referred to as 'adult at risk' or 'child at risk'. 

Legally who is a child?

In Wales and England, a child is anyone under the age of 18.

In Scotland, in the case of child protection, a child is under 16, unless they are under a protection order, at which time it is 18. For more information see National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland

What are the risk groups?

Some of the risk groups are:

  • older people who are physically or mentally frail
  • homeless
  • in care
  • refugees / asylum seekers
  • suffered a recent trauma
  • people with learning needs
  • people with a mental health condition
  • people with a physical disability
  • people who do not speak the language of the country

However, we must be careful not to label people in groups or assume abuse is not taking place because they do not fit a vulnerable group.

What is abuse?

Abuse is the violation of an individual's human and civil rights by any other person or persons.

The abuse can vary from treating someone with disrespect in a way which significantly affects the person's enjoyment of life, to causing actual physical suffering.

What are the types of abuse?

Young girl looking scared with head in knees leaning against garage wall with hand raised against her

Adults and children

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional / Phycological
  • Neglect


  • Discriminatory abuse
  • Domestic abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Organisational abuse
  • Modern slavery

Who carries out abuse?

Abuse is normally carried out by someone the individual knows, but can also be a stranger. The abuser is often someone in a position of trust, including careers and family members.

How might I recognise a safeguarding concern?

Some of the potential signs are:

  • Disclosure from a child, adult at risk, parent or anonymously
  • Cryptic social media post
  • Appearance that is inappropriate, dirty or ill-fitting clothing
  • Injuries to the body that are unexplained or the explanation does not make sense
  • Fear of a particular gender
  • Behaviour of a child that is emulating adult behaviour
  • Behaviour of a parent/carer toward the child or adult at risk being aggressive or violent
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Reckless conduct of a pregnant mother
  • Self-harm or attempted suicide

What should I do if someone discloses to me?

Lady scared leaning against a wall with first raised against her

You should:

  • listen to what you are being told without interrupting
  • tell them what they are saying is important
  • thank them for trusting you
  • inform them what they are saying is really important and we should tell someone who can help them
  • when they say they feel it was their fault they were abused, reassure them that it is not their fault and we all have a right to safe life
  • get them help at an appropriate time, without interrupting their flow of talking to you

You should NOT:

  • tell them you will keep it a secret
    What they are saying is very important and you must report it. It is better to say you cannot keep the secret and for them stop talking at this time, than to break a promise and be a person who has broken their trust. It may impact them from trusting anyone again.
  • use any leading questions or suggest who might have done this to them
    Use open questions and let them do the talking. If you use leading questions, you may damage a police case.
  • seem overly shocked by what you are told
  • tell them they must be mistaken
  • make any assumptions about what you are being told

What can I do if I am concerned?

If you are concerned about a child or adult, you should:

  • if there is an immediate threat to life, contact the emergency services on 999 or 112
  • if there is not an immediate danger, contact the local social services to highlight your concerns

It is important that if you are concerned about an individual, that you raise your concerns. You may think that someone is already dealing with it, but they may not have the full picture and therefore cannot do anything. The information you have been told or seen, that gives you a feeling something is not right, could be a piece of the jigsaw that finally helps social services see the full picture and allows them to act.

Safeguarding only works when we all work together and share information to see the big picture.

What can I do as a business?

As a business you can:

  • train your staff to recognise someone who is being abused and what actions to take
  • ensure your policies, procedures and processes do not keep people trapped in an abusive relationship because your processes notify the abuser when they try to change any information
  • ensure you have safeguarding policies
  • ensure your recruitment process watch for potential abusers and your robust recruitment discourages abusers from applying
  • promote safeguarding throughout your business

Where can I find further information?

The NSPCC has a huge range of resource on the protection of children and for producing policies to protect your business and children. You can find more information at NSPCC Safeguarding and Child Protection.

AgeUK has information on what you can do if you are concerned about an adult with an initial article Worried about an older person.

You can also search for the pages for your local health board or social services team.

How can I learn more?

We provide training at your business on Safeguarding Children and Adults. We can either offer the accredited Level 3 Principles of Safeguarding and Protecting Children, Young People or Vulnerable Adults or we can tailor a course to meet your team's needs, just get in touch to discuss your requirements.

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