What is the Difference Between Child Protection and Safeguarding?

Two boys playing chess

Put simply, child protection is a part of child safeguarding.

Child protection is perhaps a more familiar term than child safeguarding as we often hear of child protection in the news and media. It is, however, just one element of child safeguarding.


Safeguarding Children

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[1]

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, internet safety and so on. Every aspect of a child’s life is protected by the Children’s Act 2004 Legislation[2].  For an organisation safeguarding means having policies and practices in place which protect children. This can include ensuring the building and equipment they use is safe, the recruitment of staff is carefully managed and monitored, training is provided on a regular basis and information is kept up to date and relevant. Failure to do so, resulting in harm to children and young people can be punishable by Law.

Protecting Children

UNICEF defines a ‘child protection system’ as:

The set of laws, policies, regulations, and services needed across all social sectors – especially social welfare, education, health, security, and justice – to support prevention and response to protection-related risks.[3]

Child protection is, therefore, more specific than child safeguarding. Child safeguarding refers to everything and anything that can be done to protect all children and young people from harm. Child protection refers to protection put in place by specific agencies in specific cases where it has been identified that a child or young person requires a raised level of support and monitoring. They have perhaps experienced some form of abuse, neglect or domestic violence. They are likely to be in contact with Social Services and be supported by a multi-agency approach.

The differences between the two phrases are subtle but important. Child safeguarding responsibilities impact on a wide range of individuals and organisations. Communities as a whole have a responsibility to safeguard children. Child protection involves the work and engagement of fewer key agencies. It focuses on vulnerable children.

Due to the complexity and importance of these issues, it is essential that up to date and adequate training is provided to employees. By developing a knowledge of current legislation and guidance, understanding what to look for and how to create appropriate policies and procedures, organisations and businesses can play their part in protecting children and young people.

You can view our Safeguarding Children Online Course here.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/safeguarding-duties-for-charity-trustees

[2] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/31/contents

[3] United Nations Economic and Social Council (2008), UNICEF Child Protection Strategy, E/ICEF/2008/5/Rev.1, par. 12-13