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 16 November to 20 November 2020, with events taking place to highlight the impact of safeguarding and how to recognise concerns.

This year we consider the impact of COVID-19 encouraging us to all work and communicate electronically, but what considerations should we take to keep young and old safe.

What is safeguarding?

Safeguarding means preventing and protecting children and adults at risk from abuse or neglect and educating those around them to recognise the signs and dangers.

Who can be affected?

Safeguarding can affect any child or adult who is at risk of abuse or neglect.

What is abuse?

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

What are the types of abuse?

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

Lady texting on phone

How are people at risk of abuse online?

Online provides an always-on environment which means it is difficult to get away from harmful material or communication, as it can follow us where ever we are. We can also be exposed to harmful material without realising it was what we were going to see, hear or open.

People may:

  • be exposed to upsetting material
  • be exposed to inappropriate language
  • see explicit images
  • receive constant abuse
  • receive misleading information
  • unknowingly release personal information which makes them identifiable
  • unknowingly release personal information used for identity fraud
  • be encouraged to perform inappropriate acts

All of these risks can be used individually or as a combination with the aim to bully, radicalise or groom. You may think these can take time to achieve, but when used in the right way, research has shown sexual grooming can be achieved in 20 minutes.1

Perpetrators may create fake accounts to cover their identity to carry out bullying or trolling. They may use fake accounts to create a child identity to interact with other children. In the face to face world, we can see who is standing in front of us, but we may not know much about them. In the online world, we can research everything the internet says about them, but if they are not on a video call, we do not know if it is actually them we are talking to.

What should we consider to keep people safe?

During COVID-19 we have seen a rapid expansion in the use of electronic media, including social communities, chats, social walls, live streaming, video calling, virtual meetings and online games. But what consideration have you made as to how these platforms can be used and how to keep the users safe?

Online communities

It is important to consider who can access these platforms and set guidelines for participants of the communities based on potential participants, for example, children. You should consider:

  • can you control the target audience
  • can people make or share comments
  • can files be uploaded
  • what guidelines will moderates govern participants
  • who should be moderating the posts
  • what should people do if they are concerned about interaction in the community
  • are you sure everyone is of the correct age for the content

Video calling

When video calling, consider your environment and ensure it is appropriate for people to see and make sure there is nothing on display which will give away personal information. It is important to let people in the home or office know that you are on a video call to ensure no one inappropriately walks in on your call. In the office, we often put a sign on the door, but you may want to consider this for home as well.

If you are going to be video call with a child, ensure you have written parental consent and agreement from the child. It is important it is clear to the parent and the child why the video calls needs to take place.

It is important you know what actions you will take during a video call if a concern arises or something inappropriate happens.

Live streaming

When using live streaming ensure you know the privacy settings of the platform you are utilising. Some platforms allow you to control who has access, while other platforms do not and may allow children to watch.

Be aware that during a live stream anything can happen. It is important you consider where you are going to film the live stream, ensuring it is appropriate and to reduce the chance of someone unexpectedly joining you on camera. Be aware during a live stream anything could happen and you should be prepared to react to it. This could include:

  • someone inappropriately interjecting on your camera
  • the microphone picking up other comments being made in your vicinity
  • people inappropriately commenting on your live stream
  • people you didn't invite getting on to the live stream
  • someone interfering on another camera when hosting an interview over a live stream

If you know you will have children watching your live stream, consider getting written parental consent for them to join the live stream event and informing the children:

  • it is a live event and any comments could come up
  • if they see or hear anything upsetting, they should let you know or talk to their parents about it
  • if they make comments, ensure it is appropriate as they may not be able to delete them and they will remain as an indefinite digital record
  • they should not share any personal details
  • if the site allows donations, they cannot get involved in making donations

famil sitting in room reading on phone chatting

Utilising social media for work

When utilising social media to interact with a young audience, it is important that your boss know what social media activity will be undertaken and that it is in keeping with the policies. All social media interaction should be done from a works computer, but where this is not possible, management should authorise the use of personal equipment on a case by case basis.

It is important all social media activity is undertaken through work social media accounts. At no time should personal accounts be disclosed to clients or children and staff should not accept friend requests from clients on their personal accounts.

Personal social media

In a digital world, anyone can try to look up anyone else. It is important to understand the security settings of the social media platforms we use and to keep them private. If we need to make any information public, ensure it is information you would be happy to tell anyone face to face.

You should work on the basis any client or child you work with may attempt to look you up. It is important when posting to consider whether you would be happy with any client seeing that information about you. When you go to post, if you are unsure about a client or colleague/boss seeing the post, then do not post.

 

What should I do, if I am concerned someone is being abused?

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. 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 1 Awareness of Safeguarding or 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.

Boy sitting behind apple, books, glasses, and pencils

 

1 Lorenzo-Dus, N et al (2016) Understanding grooming discourse in computer-mediated environments. Discourse, Context and Media. 12. 40-50