The UK Government defines safeguarding children as to:
- protect children from abuse and maltreatment
- prevent harm to children’s health or development
- ensure children grow up with the provision of safe and effective care
- take action to enable all children and young people to have the best outcomes
All individuals and organisations with contact with children and young people have a duty of care to ensure their wellbeing. Any individual under the age of 18 is classed as a child. Up until they reach this age all children living in the UK must be ‘safeguarded’.
Safeguarding extends to all areas of children’s lives from their home life, to school, healthcare, recreational activities, extra-curricular activities and so on. Every aspect of a child’s life is protected by the Children’s Act 2004 Legislation. Failure to do so is punishable by Law.
As the subject of child protection is so broad there are numerous examples of ways in which it protects children and young people. The following will provide an idea of how safeguarding protects children and young people in a range of different scenarios:
- You are an employee at a local Leisure Centre providing a holiday club for children. One of the children attending has many bruises. When asked how they got the bruising, the child does not provide an adequate explanation.
This example is physical abuse. The Leisure Centre should have a policy in place to deal with this scenario. The employee would report this information through appropriate channels to ensure the safety of the child.
- A male Youth Worker spends a great deal of time with the young girls at the centre. He socialises with them outside of work and you have heard the girls talking about sexual encounters they have had with him.
This is sexual abuse. Any young person under the age of consent (16 years) cannot legally consent to sexual activity. The male employee is in a position of power which is exploiting for sexual gain. In this instance, the Youth Centre should have policies and procedures in place which the Employee is not adhering to. Both the employee and the Youth Centre could be persecuted for their failure to protect the children in their care.
- A local businessman hosts an annual fundraiser for the local Golf Club. He pays young girls to host the event. The uniform is revealing and they are told that in order to earn the hourly rate they must act provocatively in front of the men and allow them to touch them.
This example represents child sexual exploitation. The businessman is exploiting the young girls in exchange for money.
- You are a Teacher at a Primary School. You have noticed a child in your class does not have appropriate clothing and footwear. You have observed them stealing food.
In this circumstance, it would appear that the child is being neglected. The Teacher at the school would refer to the school policy to address this and thereby be a multi-agency approach to tackling the issue.
- A social media platform is hosting a page which encourages children and young people to share their thoughts on eating disorders. The page is now filled with hints and tips on how to maximise your eating disorder without being detected. The information on the website is being shared by 100s of young people and causing current disorders to deteriorate and new ones to develop.
Emotional abuse can take many forms. Internet safety is a growing concern. In this instance, the social media platform has been negligent in its child protection.
- A local child has been observed working at their parents’ farm for long hours. They attend school but are often seen working at the farm before school in the morning, in the evenings and at the weekend.
This is known as commercial exploitation and is often misunderstood and can be difficult to spot. Children should not be engaged in activities to the detriment of their development.