Within this policy the term ‘safeguarding’ is used in its widest sense, that is, to encompass both activity which prevents harm from occurring in the first place (council safeguarding procedures) and activity which protects children and adults at risk where harm has occurred or is likely to occur (council reporting to statutory agencies procedures).
Preventative safeguarding includes a range of actions and measures. Council employees may come into contact with children and adults who may be at risk of harm and so must recognise the potential for, and to prevent, harm. In practice we support staff by providing safeguarding procedures which include:
- recruitment and selection – vetting procedures
- management, support, supervision, training and awareness
- reporting procedures for safeguarding children and adults at risk of harm
- assessing and managing risks
- comments and complaints procedures
- management of records, confidentiality and sharing of information
- workplace domestic violence policy and trusted colleagues
- safeguarding codes of behaviour
- booking procedures for council facilities including Safeguarding requirements.
- photographic guidance
- role of Safeguarding Compliance Manager
Protective safeguarding is targeted at children and adults who are in need of protection, that is, when harm from abuse, exploitation or neglect is suspected, has occurred, or is likely to occur. The Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts and PSNI lead the protection service. In practice the Council has internal reporting protocols for concerns regarding children and adults which may lead to referrals to these statutory agencies.
The duty to safeguard is a responsibility of all organisations, groups, services and agencies within society that come into contact with children and adults at risk of harm.
We have designed the standards in this policy on Information taken from the following:
- UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (UNCRC International Treaty)
- Data Protection Act 2018 - GDPR (Replaces Data Protection Act 1998)
- The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
- Sexual Offences (NI) Order 2008
- The Sexual Offences Act 2003
- The Criminal Justice (NI) Order 2008
- Rehabilitation of Offenders Order (NI) 1978.
- Criminal Law Act (NI) 1967
- Safeguarding Vulnerable groups (NI) Order 2007
- Section 75 NI Act 1998
- The Safeguarding Board Act (NI) 2011
- Volunteer Now – Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults – Policy Standards 2012
- SBNI – Safeguarding Board for NI - Policy standards
- Co-operating to Safeguard Children (DHSSPS) Guidance
- Our Duty to Care: Standards and Guidance for Keeping Children and Young People Safe (2014), Volunteer Now.
- Co-Operating to Safeguard Children and Young People in Northern Ireland, March 2016
For the purposes of this policy, the definition of a child is any person under 18 as per The Children Order (NI) 1995.
Safeguarding is more than child protection.
Safeguarding begins with promotion and preventative activity which enables children and young people to grow up safely and securely in circumstances where their development and wellbeing is not adversely affected. It includes support to families and early intervention to meet the needs of children and continues through to child protection. Child protection refers specifically to the activity that is undertaken to protect individual children or young people who are suffering or are likely to suffer significant harm.
(Co-Operating to Safeguard Children and Young People in Northern Ireland, August 2017)
Children and young people have the right to live their lives to the fullest potential, to be protected, to be able to participate in and enjoy activities and to be treated with dignity and respect. There is a considerable body of legislation, government guidance and standards designed to ensure that these all children and young people are protected from harm.
Everybody has a responsibility for the safety of children and young people and in accordance with relevant legislation we, as an organisation which has significant contacts with children and young people across its services, have both a moral and legal obligation to ensure a duty of care.
The purpose of this policy and its associated procedures is to help protect the children and young people who use our services and to ensure that Belfast City Council employees, volunteers, and elected members are aware of issues that can cause children and young people harm and take effective action to protect them.
By complying fully with the policies and procedures, we seek to ensure that employees, volunteers, and elected members are also protected whilst carrying out their duties.
Every child and young person has a right to feel safe and protected and, as a provider of public facilities and services, we are committed to creating and maintaining the safest possible environment for the children and young people who use our facilities, access our services and come into contact with members of our workforce. We will take all reasonable steps to protect children and young people using our facilities and services from harm, discrimination, or degrading treatment whilst respecting their rights, wishes, and feelings.
We aim to do this by:
- Recognising that all children and young people have the right to freedom from abuse and protection from harm.
- Putting in place robust recruitment procedures to ensure that those individuals whose behaviour could be a threat to the safety and wellbeing of children and young people are not offered employment.
- Raising the awareness of the duty of care responsibilities throughout the council.
- Actively encouraging good practice amongst all employees, volunteers, and elected members throughout the council and promoting wider awareness wherever possible, with partnership organisations and user groups.
- Creating a safe and healthy environment within all our services, avoiding situations where abuse or allegations of abuse may occur.
- Respecting and promoting the rights, wishes, and feelings of children and young people and working closely with other agencies.
- Recruiting, training, supervising, and supporting employees and volunteers who work with children and young people to adopt best practice to safeguard and protect children and young people from abuse, and themselves against false allegations. Employees who work with children and young people will be subject to the appropriate level employment checks. All appropriate new staff will be inducted on these policy and procedures with sign-off from their line managers and Human Resources.
- Introducing a Code of Behaviour specific to Safeguarding.
- Responding to any allegations appropriately and implementing the appropriate council policies and procedures.
- Requiring employees, volunteers, and elected members to follow the council’s safeguarding children and young people policy and procedures.
- Having appropriately trained Designated Safeguarding Officers in place to co-ordinate children and young people safeguarding issues and give advice. (certain council facilities or services operate outside of 9am to 5pm, therefore, this may result in a Duty Manager rather than a Designated Officer being onsite outside of these hours).
- Ensuring we maintain confidentiality where appropriate and we restrict access to confidential information to the appropriate authorities.
- Carrying out a regular audit and review of the effectiveness of our safeguarding children and young people policy and procedures.
- Helping to maintain professionalism and standards of service which are associated with best practice provision, including a Code of Behaviour.
- We are committed to reviewing our policies, procedures, practices and training in line with changes in legislation and best practice or at a minimum every three years.
Our objectives to achieve these aims are:
- To provide appropriate training for all appropriate employees, volunteers and elected members.
- To aid employees, volunteers, and elected members to respond sensitively and seriously to anyone who discloses information about abuse and be confident and able to take appropriate action swiftly, regardless of whom the allegation is about.
- To promote the general welfare and well-being of children and young people within council facilities and services.
- To develop and implement effective procedures for recording and responding to complaints of alleged or suspected child or young person abuse.
Throughout this document ‘children or child’ is used. Unless specifically mentioned this relates to ‘children and young people’.
- The term children or young person is used to refer to anyone under the age of 18 years as defined in the Children (NI) Order 1995.
- The term parent is used as a generic term to represent parents, carers and guardians.
- The term employees, staff and elected members is used to refer to employees, agency workers, casual workers, volunteers and District Councillors’ and anyone working on behalf of and/or representing the Council (contractors).
- A volunteer is anyone who without compensation or expectation of compensation (other than reimbursement of agreed expenses, for example mileage) performs a task at the direction of and on behalf of the council.
Recognising child abuse is not easy. It is not our responsibility to decide whether or not child abuse has taken place or if a child or young person is at significant risk of harm from someone. We do, however, have both a responsibility and duty, as set out in our children and young people safeguarding policy and procedures, to act in order that the appropriate agencies can investigate and take any necessary action to protect a child or young person.
Everyone who works with children or young people or comes into contact with children or young people through their work, should be able to recognise, and know how to act upon, indicators that a child’s or young person’s welfare or safety may be at risk.
Abuse can be perpetrated by:
- others with parental responsibility
- adults in a position of trust
- people within the wider family circle or neighbourhood
- complete strangers or
- other children
Abuse or harm occurs as much from omissions and lack of protection as from commission of the actual acts of abuse. Child protection/safeguarding processes should always consider the wider needs of the child and family; the council’s elected members, staff, agency workers, casual workers and volunteers should always be alert to potential indicators of abuse or neglect.
Disabled children are at increased risk of abuse because they can experience greater vulnerability. This is the result of negative societal values, attitudes, and assumptions and unequal access to services and resources. They may have problems seeking help because of barriers to communication such as no verbal communication, isolation or inaccessible services. If staff or volunteers supporting people with disabilities have limited knowledge and skills with regard to a disability, this can increase the barriers to the recognition of abuse. The nature of a disability will be unique to each individual child or young person. They are likely to have additional needs relating to physical, sensory, cognitive, and/or communication impairments.
Reasons why disabled children and young people are more vulnerable:
- more risk of social isolation
- increased dependency for practical assistance which may increase risk of exposure to abusive behaviour
- impaired capacity to resist/avoid abuse
- speech and language communication needs can affect ability to report abuse
- lack of access to someone they trust
- vulnerable to bullying and intimidation
- looked after Children who are disabled are vulnerable due to being in care but also vulnerable due to the additional dependency of their disability
A child or young person can suffer harm through acts of abuse perpetrated upon them by others. Abuse can happen in any family, but children may be more at risk if their parents have problems with drugs or alcohol, or mental health issues, or if they live in a home where domestic abuse happens. Abuse can also occur outside of the family environment. Evidence shows that babies and children with disabilities can be more vulnerable to suffering abuse (NSPCC Stats suggest children with disabilities are three times more likely to be abused).
Although the harm from the abuse might take a long time to be recognisable in the child or young person, professionals may be in a position to observe its indicators earlier, for example, in the way that a parent interacts with their child. The key is effective and ongoing information sharing between professionals.
Harm from abuse is not always straightforward to identify and a child or young person may experience more than one type of harm or significant harm.
Harm can be caused by:
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
- emotional abuse
- neglect; and, or
- exploitation [Footnote 1].
Is deliberately physically hurting a child or young person. It might take a variety of different forms, including hitting, biting, pinching, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning or suffocating a child or young person.
Occurs when others use and exploit children sexually for their own gratification or gain or the gratification of others. Sexual abuse may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape, or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside clothing. It may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in the production of sexual images, forcing children to look at sexual images or watch sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via e-technology). Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.
Is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child. We sometimes call this psychological abuse and it can have severe and persistent adverse effects on a child’s emotional development.
Emotional abuse may involve deliberately telling a child that they are worthless, or unloved and inadequate. It may include not giving an opportunity to express their views, deliberately silencing them, or ‘making fun’ of what they say or how they communicate. Emotional abuse may involve bullying, including online bullying through social networks, online games, or mobile phones by a child’s peers.
Is the failure to provide for a child’s basic needs, whether it be adequate food, clothing, hygiene, supervision or shelter that is likely to result in the serious impairment of a child’s health or development. Neglected children often also suffer from other types of abuse.
Is the intentional ill-treatment, manipulation or abuse of power and control over a child or young person; to take selfish or unfair advantage of a child or young person or situation, for personal gain. It may manifest itself in many forms such as child labour, slavery, servitude, engagement in criminal activity, begging, benefit or other financial fraud, or child trafficking. It extends to the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation can be sexual in nature.
Although not categorised as abuse, it is important that we recognise and respond appropriately to children and young people who may have self-harmed or are suspected of self-harming. Self-harm is a term used when someone injures or harms himself or herself on purpose (also called self-injury or deliberate self-harm) rather than by accident. Common examples include cutting, hitting, scratching or burning. Attempted suicide is the most serious form of self-harm.
Course of action: If a young person discloses that they self-harm to you or you suspect a young person could be self-harming then you should follow the safeguarding process/procedures.
Council implements transparent and clearly defined recruitment and selection procedures in accordance with legislative and statutory requirements as set out in the Local Government Staff Commission Code of Procedures for Recruitment and Selection.
The procedures set out in this document are in place to screen out those who are not suitable to work with children and young people.
As part of the Councils commitment to safeguarding children and young people we undertake ‘Safer Recruitment’ when recruiting to posts which are considered ‘regulated activity’.
Regulated Activity (definition)
Regulated activity is defined as a position which requires working closely, regularly and unsupervised with children and is defined in Schedule 2 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (NI) Order 2007, as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.
Regulated positions include those whose normal duties require them to care for, train, advise, counsel or are in sole charge of children, or have unsupervised contact with children, as well as the supervisors/managers of individuals in regulated positions.
Access NI provides criminal history information to organisations and individuals on three levels of ‘Criminal Record Check’, standard, enhanced, basic disclosures.
The level of checks required will be determined at the beginning of the recruitment process by the employing department. Corporate HR will also hold a list of Regulated posts, and the related procedures will be managed by the HR department.
An Access NI Enhanced Disclosure with Barred List Check is required for employees and volunteers in posts designated as regulated activity i.e. those posts which work with children and young people (as defined under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (NI) Order 2007, as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012). Before commencing a selection process for a post, the line manager in consultation with Departmental HR, Corporate HR, Continuous Improvement and the Safeguarding Compliance Manager will determine if the post is considered to be a ‘regulated post’.
During the selection process the preferred candidate must give consent for the relevant Access NI Disclosure Check. If the preferred candidate refuses to give consent for the check or if they are found to have withheld information this will be sufficient grounds for the Council to withdraw their conditional offer of employment.
Checks will be requested for any employee in a regulated position and those whose business or professional practice dictates. Checks will be repeated every three years for those in regulated activity and/or excepted posts, as appropriate. Checks will not normally be requested for existing employees (in non-regulated activity) however, a check will be requested if, an employee takes up new duties in a regulated position, where this has not previously been the case.
Access NI Disclosures
If a Criminal Records check reveals details of convictions which may render the applicant unsuitable for the applied for post Departmental HR/Corporate HR will discuss the situation with the applicant in accordance with the guidance set out in the Councils Guidelines for Dealing with Applicants with Convictions.
It is an offence for a barred person to work, apply to work or offer to work in Regulated Activity with a group they are barred from working with. Candidates on the Barred List will not be employed in Regulated Activity by the Council. If the checks reveal that a candidate is on the Barred List for Regulated Activity, the Council will make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service to notify them of the individuals attempt to apply for barred work.
The Council require all those applicants who have to complete the Access NI check to produce evidence of their identity e.g., a long birth certificate. This is important as Access NI can only make checks if the persons identify is confirmed.
The Council require two references from people who have employed you and who are not family members. Where a post involves work with children the Council may request references from any other previous employment, which involved working with children or young people.
If for legitimate reasons there is difficulty in sourcing suitable references, we reserve the right to seek alternatives as described in the referencing guidance document.
Council will ensure that agency workers in Regulated Activity are required to complete the relevant Access NI checks before they commence work.
Where volunteers work in Council and they are carrying out work considered as Regulated Activity, the council will:
- require the Volunteer to complete a registration form
- confirm their identify (e.g. provide a long birth certificate)
- receive two written references
- organise a meeting with the volunteer to review the details on the application form, review the volunteering role, ensure they are aware of the Safeguarding Children and Young People Policy and Procedures and the induction paperwork
- give permission for council to apply to Access NI for an Enhanced Disclosure
Young Workers and Placements
Should the Council engage for any purpose a young person under the age of 18 then a safeguarding and health and safety risk assessment must be completed at induction.
Learning and development must not be seen as a one-off event, but a continuous process which requires the investment of time and resources within organisations to create a learning environment and a competent workforce. Each organisation must take responsibility to develop both knowledge and expertise in safeguarding and protecting children and young people and seek to identify the most appropriate and relevant opportunities to develop the confidence, abilities and competence of staff and volunteers.
Co-Operating to Safeguard Children and Young People in Northern Ireland, March 2016
Safeguarding children and young people training will be offered as per SBNI Child Safeguarding Learning and Development Strategy and Framework (currently 2020 -2023) on a regular basis facilitating employees, agency workers, volunteers and elected members to update their knowledge and skill as appropriate.
The Council will provide refresher training every three years. The training will be provided at three levels - according to job description and role.
Level 1- Awareness raising (online and in person)
General awareness for all, employees, agency workers, volunteers and elected members. Attendees will gain basic knowledge of signs and indicators of child abuse and contributory factors; agency / staff policy and procedures; reporting procedures / processes and record keeping. Learning outcomes will include the ability to recognise and respond appropriately to child safeguarding issues and understand own role and the role of others within the organisation using the safeguarding policy and procedures. This will form part of the Council’s induction programme.
Level 2 – Facilitated training (online during COVID-19)
Safeguarding children and young people training for relevant managers, employees, agency workers and volunteers who have substantial contact with children and young people. Attendees will gain more in-depth knowledge of values and principles of safeguarding children and young people; code of behaviour; recording skills; relevant legislation and referral process. Learning outcomes will include the ability to contribute to the assessment and management of risk; assist in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people and understand the importance of own behaviour and boundaries.
Level 3 – Facilitated training (online due to COVID-19)
Comprehensive training for Designated Safeguarding Officers’, Relevant Managers and Duty Mangers. Attendees will gain knowledge of key tasks to safeguard children; national, regional and local policies, standards and guidance: ‘the protocol for joint investigation by police officers and social workers of alleged and suspected cases of child abuse – Northern Ireland’ (April 2013). Learning outcomes will include the ability to develop working relationships with other professionals; identify learning from case management reviews and contribute to interagency safeguarding plans.
While it is important that we adopt a partnership approach to ensure the safety and welfare of adults at risk, it is of equally important that all concerned are confident that the information they provide will only be disclosed where it is in the best interests of the adult at risk to do so. We have carefully constructed the council’s policy and procedures to ensure such confidentiality while protecting the interests of the adult at risk.
We have an Adult Safeguarding Champion, Safeguarding Compliance Manager and officers with designated responsibility due to the complex nature of operations.
Officers’ who have been specially trained in the area of safeguarding and are committed to the principle of confidentiality.
Information obtained by organisations in the exercise of their safeguarding duties may be of a personal nature about a particular adult at risk, and therefore is governed by the common law duty of confidentiality, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (the DPA).
The six principles state that personal data should be:
- processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner
- collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes
- adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary
- accurate and where necessary kept up to date
- kept in a form which permits identification of data subjects for no longer that is necessary for the purposes for which those data are processed, and
- processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data
Accountability is central to GDPR. Data Controllers are responsible for compliance with the principles and must be able to demonstrate this to data subjects and the regulator.
In order to ensure compliance with the requirements of safeguarding legislation and expectation there are a number of procedures in place:
- The Safeguarding Panel:
The Safeguarding Panel is a cross-departmental assurance and compliance group set up by the Council to oversee the practical implementation of this Policy and to develop, monitor and review safeguarding procedures.
Its role includes:
- Identifying safeguarding training needs within services.
- Developing supplementary safeguarding procedures as they are required.
- Promoting good practice within council services – to include procurement of services.
- Discussing incidents and concerns raised in services to facilitate a council-wide response if necessary.
- Setting internal reporting requirements.
- Regularly review the internal reports, identify any actions needed and oversee implementation of these actions.
- Review risks and emergent issues that may require action for the council.
Safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility, and safeguarding all ages is important to us. The Council recognises everyone has a fundamental right to be safe. Whatever the cause, or wherever it occurs, harm caused to children, young people or adults by abuse, exploitation or neglect is not acceptable.
This expectation extends to all 3rd parties that work with or on behalf of the council, this includes 3rd party Contracts such as Greenwich Leisure Limited (our delivery partners for leisure services), organisations who receive grant funding, supply contracts, funded projects, events and anyone hiring our venues. In line with this policy, we expect our contactors/partners to:
- Have in place their own policy and procedures for safeguarding children, young people and adults at risk of harm consistent with current legislation and best practise.
- In absence of their own policy, agree to use ours until such time as they can write/implement their own.
- Ensure that all members of staff and volunteers who will be employed in the programme and fall into the regulated categories as per the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups (NI) Order 2007 (as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012) have had the appropriate level of Access NI check carried out.
[Footnote 1] Although ‘exploitation’ is not included in the categories of registration for the Child Protection Register, professionals should recognise that the abuse resulting from or caused by the exploitation of children and young people can be categorised within the existing CPR categories as children who have been exploited will have suffered from physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or a combination of these forms of abuse.