Guidance for Safe Working Practice for adults who work with children and young people
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Children and Young People: Throughout this document references are made to "children and young people". These terms are interchangeable and refer to children who have not yet reached their 18th birthday. This guidance, however also has value for those working with vulnerable adults.
Adults: References to ‘adults’ or ‘volunteers’ refer to any adult who is employed, commissioned or contracted to work with or on behalf of, children and young people, in either a paid or unpaid capacity.
Manager: The term ‘manager’ refers to those adults who have responsibility for managing services including the supervision of employees and/or volunteers at any level.
Employer: The term ‘employer’ refers to the organisation which employs, or contracts to use the services of individuals in pursuit of the goals of that organisation. In the context of this document, the term ‘employer’ is also taken to include ‘employing’ the unpaid services of volunteers.
Safeguarding: Process of protecting children from abuse or neglect, preventing impairment of their health and development, and ensuring they are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care that enables children to have optimum life chances and enter adulthood successfully.1
Duty of Care: The duty which rests upon an individual or organisation to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure the safety of a child or young person involved in any activity or interaction for which that individual or organisation is responsible. Any person in charge of, or working with children and young people in any capacity is considered, both legally and morally to owe them a duty of care.
Allegation: any information which suggests an adult who works with children has:
- behaved in a way that has harmed, or may have harmed a child
- possibly committed a criminal offence against, or related to , a child; or
- behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates s/he is unsuitable to work with children
- The welfare of the child is paramount (Children Act 1989)
- It is the responsibility of all adults to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people. This responsibility extends to a duty of care for those adults employed, commissioned or contracted to work with children and young people.
- Adults who work with children are responsible for their own actions and behaviour and should avoid any conduct which would lead any reasonable person to question their motivation and intentions
- Adults, should work and be seen to work, in an open and transparent way
- The same professional standards should always be applied and should be sensitive to differences expressed through culture, disability, gender, language, racial origin, religious belief and/or sexual identity.
- Adults should continually monitor and review their practice and ensure they follow the guidance contained in this document
How to use the document
This document is relevant to both individuals and organisations working with or on behalf of children and young people. Where an individual works independently and does not work as part of an organisation references made to the ‘senior manager’ should be taken to refer to parents or those with parenting responsibilities.
Each section provides general guidance about a particular aspect of work undertaken with children and young people with, in the right hand column, specific guidance about which behaviours should be avoided and which are recommended. Some organisations may need to adapt or add to the guidance to meet their specific practices or contexts. The document has however, been written for a generic audience and most, if not all of the content, is applicable to all adults who work with children and young people. The diagram in Appendix 1 illustrates how the guidance could be used as a basis for developing specific agency guidance. Appendix 2 provides a visual framework for understanding how the document fits with safer recruitment and selection and procedures and those which relate to disciplinary proceedings.
It is recommended that organisations and settings who provide services for children and young people use this guidance to develop and promote safer working practice by ensuring that all employees and volunteers are made aware of its contents and have access to it.
Incorporating the use of this document in recruitment and selection processes will help to prevent and deter unsuitable people from working with children and young people. Providing employees and volunteers with clear guidance on appointment and revisiting this through induction, supervision, performance management, training programmes etc, will also help to ensure a safer children’s workforce. Employers and managers will be better placed to deal with unsuitable or inappropriate behaviour if their expectations have been made clear and reinforced throughout a person’s employment and there is evidence that this has been done.
Individuals should follow this guidance in their day to day practice. It should also be referred to when taking on new work, different duties or additional responsibilities.
All adults who work with children and young people have a crucial role to play in shaping their lives. They have a unique opportunity to interact with children and young people in ways that are both affirming and inspiring. This guidance has been produced to help adults working in all settings to establish safe and responsive environments which safeguard young people and reduce the risk of adults being unjustly accused of improper or unprofessional conduct.
This means that these guidelines:
- apply to all adults working in all settings whatever their position, role, or responsibilities
- may provide guidance where an individual’s suitability to work with children and young people has been called into question.
The guidance contained in this document is an attempt to identify what behaviours are expected of adults who work with children and young people. Adults whose practice deviates from this guidance and/or their professional or employment-related code of conduct may bring into question their suitability to work with children and young people.
This means that adults should:
- have a clear understanding about the nature and content of this document
- discuss any uncertainties or confusion with their line manager
- understand what behaviours may call into question their suitability to continue to work with children and young people
Duty of Care
All adults who work with, and on behalf of children are accountable for the way in which they exercise authority; manage risk; use resources; and safeguard children and young people.
Whether working in a paid or voluntary capacity, these adults have a duty to keep children and young people safe and to protect them from sexual, physical and emotional harm. Children and young people have a right to be treated with respect and dignity. It follows that trusted adults are expected to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety and well-being of children and young people. Failure to do so may be regarded as neglect.3
The duty of care is in part, exercised through the development of respectful and caring relationships between adults and children and young people. It is also exercised through the behaviour of the adult, which at all times should demonstrate integrity, maturity and good judgement.
Everyone expects high standards of behaviour from adults who work with children and young people. When individuals accept such work, they need to understand and acknowledge the responsibilities and trust inherent in that role.
Employers also have a duty of care towards their employees, both paid and unpaid, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 19744. This requires them to provide a safe working environment for adults and provide guidance about safe working practices. Employers also have a duty of care for the well-being of employees and to ensure that employees are treated fairly and reasonably in all circumstances. The Human Rights Act 1998 sets out important principles regarding protection of individuals from abuse by state organisations or people working for those institutions. Adults who are subject to an allegation should therefore be supported and the principles of natural justice applied.
The Health and Safety Act 1974 also imposes a duty on employees5 to take care of themselves and anyone else who may be affected by their actions or failings. An employer’s duty of care and the adult’s duty of care towards children should not conflict. This ‘duty’ can be demonstrated through the use and implementation of these guidelines.
This means that adults should:
- understand the responsibilities, which are part of their employment or role, and be aware that sanctions will be applied if these provisions are breached
- always act, and be seen to act, in the child’s best interests
- avoid any conduct which would lead any reasonable person to question their motivation and intentions
- take responsibility for their own actions and behaviour
This means that employers should:
- ensure that appropriate safeguarding and child protection polices and procedures are adopted, implemented and monitored
- ensure that codes of conduct/practices are continually monitored and reviewed
- ensure that, where services or activities are provided by another body, the body concerned has appropriate safeguarding polices and procedures
- foster a culture of openness and support
- ensure that systems are in place for concerns to be raised
- ensure that adults are not placed in situations which render them particularly vulnerable
- ensure all adults have access to and understand this guidance and related, policies and procedures
- ensure that all job descriptions and person specifications clearly identify the competences necessary to fulfil the duty of care
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