Who Is Responsible for the Safeguarding of Children?

who is responsible for the safeguarding of children

People who work with children must be able to recognise the signs of abuse and know what action to take if they feel a child is being mistreated. This duty of care is referred to as ‘safeguarding’.

Safeguarding is a critical responsibility, but it can be complicated. There are complex laws and procedures surrounding children’s welfare. Many childcare workers and volunteers don’t understand who is responsible for the safeguarding of children.

Childhood is an extraordinary and vital time. The experiences we have as children shape who we become as adults. Every child deserves to feel safe and be protected from harm.

Heartbreakingly, many children in the UK still suffer from abuse and mistreatment. These children are in desperate need of support.

In this article, we’ll look at the responsibilities of care for people working with children. Keep reading to learn the essentials about safeguarding children in the workplace.

What Is Safeguarding?

All children have the right to be protected from abuse and mistreatment. As adults, we are responsible for protecting the children in our lives. In health and safety terms, this responsibility is known as safeguarding.

Any act taken to protect a child from harm falls under the definition of safeguarding, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). The NSPCC defines the four main elements of safeguarding as:

  • Actions taken to protect children from abuse and maltreatment
  • Actions taken to prevent harm to children’s health or development
  • Actions taken to ensure children can grow up with the provision of safe and effective care
  • Actions that enable all children and young people to have the best outcomes

In organisational terms, safeguarding refers to procedures and policies to protect children from harm.

As a concept, safeguarding extends to any person who is deemed as being vulnerable. This definition includes children, elderly people, people with chronic illnesses, and people with disabilities.

Safeguarding Courses

Our Safeguarding courses provide trainees with the concepts and principles of safeguarding. The course is designed for people at any level of work with vulnerable adults or children so that the signs of abuse are spotted and documented correctly.

Who is Responsible for Safeguarding?

The primary responsibility for safeguarding children lies with their parents and carers. But if you work with or come into contact with children in any type of capacity, then you must also act to protect them from harm.

Some of the occupations that have responsibilities for safeguarding children include:

  • Teachers
  • Childcare providers
  • GPs
  • Nurses
  • Dentists
  • Social workers
  • Midwives
  • Early years professionals
  • Youth workers
  • Police officers
  • NHS workers
  • Sporting coaches
  • Holiday camp workers
primary responsibility for safeguarding children

Any person who works with or has children under their care in a volunteering capacity also has a safeguarding responsibility. This can include people who volunteer as creche workers, Scout leaders, or coaches.

Whether being paid a wage or volunteering your time, safeguarding children is everyone’s responsibility.

Are Safeguarding and Child Protection the Same?

It’s easy to confuse the concept of safeguarding children with child protection. Child protection is part of the safeguarding process, but it does have an important distinction.

Safeguarding refers to any measures taken to prevent children from suffering harm. Child protection refers to procedures designed to protect an individual child who is at risk of harm or who is currently suffering abuse or maltreatment.

Safeguarding is preventative and proactive. Child protection is responsive and reactive.

Child protection procedures typically involve agencies and local authorities such as:

  • The police
  • Children’s social care services
  • Health and welfare services
  • Housing authorities
  • Local authorities
  • Probation services

How Do We Define Abuse?

Child abuse is defined by the NSPCC as any instance ‘when a child is intentionally harmed by an adult or another child.’ Abuse can take the form of maltreatment or exploitation. It can be a one-off occurrence, or it can occur over an extended period. Abuse can happen in person, or it can happen online. Abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, or exploitative. Abuse can also take the form of neglect.

Other forms of child abuse include:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Forced marriage
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Grooming
  • Child trafficking
  • Criminal exploitation and gang activity
  • Radicalisation

How Do We Keep the Children and Young People We Work With Safe?

Child abuse cases and cases of cruelty or neglect in the UK have risen by 106% in the last five years, according to data from the NSPCC. During the 2022/23 period, assessments were conducted by children’s social care authorities for over 655,000 children in need.

These alarming figures highlight just how prevalent child abuse is in the community. People who work with children are often called upon to prevent cases of abuse and provide abused children with the support and help they need. To ensure that young people and children are safe, the NSPCC advises businesses and organisations to:

  • Implement safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures
  • Follow recruitment practises that ensure staff are suitable to work with children
  • Stay up to date with the latest guidance and best practices about safeguarding children
  • Periodically review all child safeguarding procedures
  • Be sure all staff know how to recognise signs of child abuse
  • Train staff on how to respond to signs of child abuse

Safeguarding Children and the Law

Businesses and organisations must have a good understanding of what laws and statutory guidelines relate to safeguarding children. These include:

  • The Children Act 1989
  • The Children Act 2004
  • The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003
  • The Children and Young Persons Act 2008
  • The Children and Families Act 2014
  • The Children and Social Work Act 2017

Sections 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004 outline who is responsible for the safeguarding of children in businesses and organisations that care for children. It’s also recommended to refer to the UK government’s Working Together to Safeguard Children 2023 for guidance on safeguarding children.

It’s important to note that UK law doesn’t explicitly compel a person to report a suspected case of child abuse. Instead, the statutory guidance stresses that there is an expectation that cases of suspected child abuse will be reported to the relevant authorities. This is often reinforced by in-house safeguarding policies and procedures.

Recognising the signs of child abuse, however, can be difficult.

Common Signs of Child Abuse

As we noted above, there are many different types of child abuse. Each form of abuse may cause a child to react differently. Also, each child is an individual. Children won’t all have the same reactions to abuse. Some children may not even realise that they’re being abused.

Nevertheless, there are some common signs of child abuse to look out for. Abused children often:

  • Become withdrawn or moody
  • Have sudden personality changes or changes in behaviour
  • Are uncharacteristically aggressive
  • Are lacking in social skills and have few friends
  • Have poor relationships with parents or carers
  • Run away or go missing
  • Have inappropriate knowledge of adult issues (for example, sex or drugs)
  • Wear clothes that cover their entire bodies
  • Have unexplained bruises or injuries
  • Have bladder control issues

Acting upon a suspicion of child abuse is a serious matter. It can be highly traumatic for the child, their parents, the worker involved, and the community at large.

What to Do If You Think a Child is Being Abused

If you have concerns that a child under your care is being abused, you should report your concerns to a superior immediately. Record the signs of abuse and how often you recognise them. Speak with your colleagues to see if anyone else has noticed anything.

Many abused children don’t reach out to other people for help. Gently talk to the child to build trust. Eventually, they may confide in you.

If a child has told you they are being abused, or you become sure of your suspicions, you should report the matter to the designated safeguarding person at your work. You should inform local social services authorities if there is no such person.

The NSPCC website has a helpline and an email address where you can report cases of child abuse.

If you feel a child is in immediate danger, contact the police right away.

Where to Learn More About Safeguarding Children

Everyone who comes into contact with or has children under their care must protect their welfare and well-being. Clearly defining who is responsible for the safeguarding of children is essential for any business or organisation that works with children or young people.

Our Safeguarding Courses teach people how to keep children and vulnerable adults safe.

Completing this training will ensure your business complies with safeguarding legislation. More importantly, it will help you and your team protect the children under your care.

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