There are few more serious responsibilities than being charged with the task of protecting the most vulnerable members of our society, namely our children. Since the Children Act 2004, organisations like schools, nurseries and charities which have dealings with children are required to employ a Designated Safeguarding Person (Safeguarding Officer). This person’s role is essentially to ensure that the children and young people with whom the institution has contact are safe and protected from predatory or abusive behaviour by adults.
There are two main strands to this task:
The Safeguarding Officer, who experts say should be a senior and well-respected member of existing staff or an experienced new hire with a proven background in child protection, has a broad strategic brief. In other words, he or she must be constantly seeking ways in which a body’s strategy, ethos and performance can be enhanced and refined. In addition, the Safeguarding Officer is responsible for the training and education of co-workers so that they are equipped to identify the signs and symptoms of abuse and are fully aware of the procedures in place to report their concerns.
There is never space for complacency in the area of safeguarding children and organisations need to evolve and review their policies on an ongoing basis, as has been highlighted by numerous high profile scandals in UK news in recent years. See, for example, English cricket’s determination to make its protection infrastructure more robust.
The Safety Officer must also ensure corporate compliance with the various pieces of legislation and statutory instruments designed to protect children. For example, he or she is required to liaise in certain circumstances with law enforcement and social services as well as preparing an audit of the organisation’s child protection record every two years. A crucial function is making sure that, when employing new personnel, the school or charity, for example, conforms to safe recruitment procedures. This involves, among other activities, investigating an applicant’s criminal record by carrying out a DBS or CRB check via an agency like http://www.carecheck.co.uk/.
This is, of course, the most basic introduction to what is a complex and challenging job. Those concerned either with the Safeguarding Officer’s function or with child protection should, in the first instance, read some of the excellent government guidances such as https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/safeguarding-children-and-young-people/safeguarding-children-and-young-people.