Can safe ever be fun?

by Anne Kent-Taylor, Head of Operations and outgoing Safeguarding Lead…

I’m not alone as a Head of Operations in being concerned about the way in which my role is perceived by an organisation. I have heard other operational managers, at other organisations, cry:

“I’m sick of being told I’m too negative.”
“It’s my job to notice potential problems and fix them.”

So when you’re in a role that requires you to be risk-aware, and to keep the organisation safe, how can you make it fun? Adding the responsibility of safeguarding lead to my remit did not seem like the obvious way of making my working day more cutting edge.

My safeguarding role started three years ago with a review of policy and procedure, and the drafting of an action plan. So far, so typical.

I worked together with other staff members, particularly in commissioned services, to ensure that the right procedures were in place to check, train and support staff, volunteers and practitioners that may come in to contact with babies, children, young people or vulnerable adults.

In the first three months as safeguarding lead, I was contacted just three times.

Could this be right? We know that we see nearly 100,000 parents through courses each year; over 10,000 women through commissioned services each year, and around 15,000 parents through branch events each week.

It’s really hard to find out the “right” level of safeguarding concerns for a charity. I have seen one charity present a graph showing an increase in concerns but omitting the numbers from the axis! There are currently a couple of larger children’s charities working together to benchmark safeguarding – but their beneficiaries are different to ours.

How would we know when we were at the right level?

We decided that what we wanted to see was an increase in concerns reported. That we wouldn’t aim for a number, and we would never be worried that it was “too high”, but we wanted more people to get in touch with us.

I carried on implementing the action plan but it wasn’t making safeguarding tangible for people. We had to make it more relevant, more real, more relatable.

The breakthrough was to take a more creative approach – away from policy and action plans – and to make safeguarding come alive. We wanted to be able to talk about safeguarding every month, which meant we needed to find stories to tell.

From the contacts we’d had with practitioners and volunteers, we knew the sorts of things that they encountered and were worried about. So we began a series of “Safeguarding scenarios” in Update, our monthly internal newsletter. I’m pretty sure you will have read one, as they were the most clicked through article in Staff, Practitioner and Volunteer Update for three months in a row and people have been in touch with us to say how useful they find them.

Sometimes we use real life examples – an anonymised version of something that we have been contacted about. Sometimes we invent situations which we know people have concerns about. Sometimes we base it on examples given by other charities. We always provide links to additional resources and make sure that everyone knows to contact the Safeguarding Lead if something doesn’t feel right.

In the last three months, I was contacted 21 times.

The contacts range from safeguarding concerns, to advice about mental health, assessing criminal record checks, and supporting people with sharing information.

The role has allowed a bit of creativity, a lot of variety, and the chance to see something new at NCT.

Now that I’ve spent nearly three years in this role, it’s time to hand over to another staff member. The responsibility of Safeguarding Lead will move to Helen Simkin, our Head of People. This marks the next stage of NCT’s journey in embedding a culture of safeguarding. Placing this responsibility with Helen allows for learning and development – in safeguarding and safer recruitment – along with the chance to upskill the organisation in mental health awareness.

Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and I’m proud of the way NCT has developed over the last three years, and the opportunity that focusing on an area where we need policy and process has still allowed creativity and humanity.


Sample safeguarding scenario:

Scenario 3 | December 2018

A couple in a same sex relationship have been attending an antenatal class that you are teaching, they have been engaging and you have no previous concerns. Tonight as you were loading your equipment into the car after the course, you notice that they are arguing loudly in another part of the carpark, you also notice one partner appear to strike their pregnant partner.

  1. What would you do immediately?
  2. Would you record any of this, and if so where?
  3. What actions would you take in the longer term?
  4. If you felt that you needed to take further advice who would you speak to?

  • What would you do immediately?
    • Be aware of your own safety; do not attempt to intervene alone.
    • The same sex relationship is irrelevant; you are witnessing an assault of a pregnant woman and must act as she is in immediate danger.
    • Where is the carpark? Can you call out to security?
    • Is there anyone else in the area who can help?
    • Call the police 999

There is no set order to the actions above, they can be done concurrently. This is a situation where you must act quickly.

  • Would you record any of this, and if so where?
    • Do you have the details of the attendees to hand? The police will need this when they arrive. If possible, make a note of the car registration.
    • Afterwards when you get home, try to make some notes whilst it is fresh in your memory.
    • After you have spoken to the safeguarding lead, you will be required to complete an NCT safeguarding form.
    • As the police have been involved, you may also be required to be available to give further information.

  • What actions would you take in the longer term?
    • Make contact with the NCT Safeguarding Lead (safeguarding@nct.org.uk)
    • You need to speak to the safeguarding lead and agree a plan, BEFORE you attempt to contact the mum who was assaulted. Due to the nature of domestic violence, this mum may not be ready to leave this relationship and may not welcome contact from you. The police will make a referral to the duty safeguarding team as standard and they will use specialist workers along with the police liaison officer to support the family.
    • Keep updating the NCT safeguarding lead.
    • Often after a serious situation such as this, you won’t be given any further updates as it’s considered that your role has ended. Whilst this may feel frustrating, you have to remember that you have done the right thing at the right time and have faith in the statutory services.

  • If you felt that you needed to take further advice who would you speak to?
    • Contact NCT’s safeguarding lead at safeguarding@nct.org.uk, as soon as possible
    • Complete an NCT safeguarding recording form.

Whilst domestic violence may not feel very festive, it has been chosen for the December Update as year on year statistics show a huge spike in incidents over the festive period. You may not ever come into contact with an assault like the scenario, but be mindful, know where to signpost – there are good organisations listed in the further resources section below. The more that you are informed, the more you can help someone – even if it is just showing them a phone number.


Resources

Women’s aid – further information on forms and types of domestic abuse
National domestic vioence helpline – free helpline and information on the website. Anyone can ring for advice.
Save lives – information on policy and statistics
NHS – information for victims

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