Safeguarding is high on the agenda for any organisation, group or social club coming into contact with families children and young people. Up to date polices provide a framework for working, a checklist for best practice and guidance to ensure that staff know their roles and responsibilities.
Putting those policies into practice, staff will be required to undertake quality safeguarding training that is both up to date, and relevant to your organisation and the service it provides.
Equipping staff with skills knowledge and confidence to respond to the safeguarding concerns will no doubt help to improve the health and wellbeing of children and families – however for some time now we have excluded from our safeguarding and training strategies the very people who are our biggest assets – The Community.
If you have not considered the importance of including communities in your own training needs strategies, take 5 mins to read the following and consider if the effectiveness of your service would be improved by including
Training for The Community – Your biggest assets in Safeguarding Children
1. Communities have excellent “opening hours” and rarely close
One of the biggest criticisms of many support services are the limiting aspects of a 9 to 5 approach. Crisis or chaos within a family does not occur at convenient
times to suit our workplace hours. The times when parents struggle the most and are in need of a sympathetic ear or a hand to look after the kids will be outside of those office hours . Breakfast time , before the school run is frequently a time of increased stress . The chaos of early evening with meals to prepare, and homework to complete will be when arguments happen and parenting is tested to the limit . Stress that causes parents to feel inadequate is likely to occur during the busiest time of the family schedule. Rather than support being needed 9 to 5 chances are stress will be highest at bedtime when parents and kids are tired patience runs dry and families struggle to maintain routine. Communities provide that “out of hours” support at times when struggling families need it the most. It’s friends and family who are at the end of the phone or available to pop round for a brew during the ‘out of office hours ‘ . A welcome support that is rarely acknowledged .
2. Communities build relationships & trust
Despite the loneliness of modern living and the fact that we don’t always know what ‘goes on behind closed doors’ there is still an element of unity within our local communities.
You may consider it gossip, concern, or simply taking a neighbourly interest but by and large in close knit communities people do tend to look out for one another .Joined together by geographical area or by common interest such as Women’s Groups, Recovery groups or sports clubs, people are often aware of the ups and downs, the struggles within a family long before services are alerted.
Despite increased effort from services to counteract the stigma there is a still a huge reluctance from many folk to engage with family support services on a voluntary basis.
Whether that’s because of their own experience or from the experiences of their peers and other family members the fact remains that for some, services will NOT be their first port of call. It will be community members, families and neighbours who will often be the first people they speak to when they are facing difficulties with family life and emotional wellbeing.
3. Communities are the first to know when families need support
Members of our communities whether they are neighbours, local postwoman, window cleaner or taxi service picking up Mrs Jones for weekly bingo at the community hall, are often the first to spot when something is “not quite right” for a family. From visible signs of poverty to local hearsay about changes in behaviour or routine it is our community members who are often the first to recognise when families might need a bit of extra support.
4. Communities speak the same language
Without assessment tools, risk and safety protocols and the barriers created by “professional speak” communities will dive head first into supporting our most vulnerable
in society . Through simple words, a listening ear and a safe space it is our communities who will often enable parents and children to open up about their difficulties. Communities have that ability to uncover more by chatting over 2 cups of tea and a plate of chocolate digestives than most professionals would hope to discover from an 8 page assessment form . Despite the huge network of services surrounding children and families it is often the case that families in need will trust their own peer groups within their communities before the professionals
5. Communities are vigilant to families in crisis
It is often neighbours who are the first to alert services when they believe a family is in crisis. Whether there is a suspicion of domestic violence, child neglect or deteriorating mental health a high percentage of calls to Social Services already come from Community members. It is extremely worrying for services if people disengage from support once concerns have been raised. When those same families also disengage from their own networks its can be an indication that a family situation is deteriorating and children maybe at higher risk. All the more reason for services to have much stronger links to the wider communities. As we have seen time and again within Serious Case reviews, without direct contact from members of local communities social services are not alerted to a crisis until it becomes a tragedy.
6. Communities are the final piece in the jigsaw of sharing information
For many years, multi agency safeguarding training has reiterated the need for information sharing, joint working and
agreed protocols to improve the safeguarding of children and families. When discussing Safeguarding we often refer to the analogy of the “jigsaw puzzle” in multi agency working . Each organisation providing their own piece of the information puzzle to provide a clearer picture of the extent of concerns. We already know that communities are often the missing piece in that puzzle and much weight is given to those organisations that can engage with and involve communities in the safeguarding process.
When you consider how much communities have to offer when it comes to safeguarding we have to ask
- Why aren’t we training our communities more – raising awareness of services and referral pathways?
- Why don’t we routinely afford quality Safeguarding training to our Communities in the same way we would to any other referral agency?
- Why are we not increasing skills and knowledge of our communities, building stronger relationships and learning from them as the undeniable asset they are for our safeguarding strategies
It is so important for organisations to have an ongoing training strategy to increase the safeguarding skills of the workforce. In considering the 6 points raised here its clear to see that it is equally important to value the relationships that exist outside the professional arena. Community members are the eyes and ears of services and as such its imperative that organisation consider the needs of the community when raising awareness of safeguarding issues.
Only when organisations consider parents, neighbours, church members, siblings and other family members in training strategies can ALL the pieces of the “jigsaw of concern” come together . Training in Safeguarding, referral processes and local services is already mandatory for staff teams. However in considering your training strategies and who are your priority delegates for recieiving training its important to remember that when it comes to safeguarding
Community members are your biggest asset
Find out how you can improve health and involve local communities in your safeguarding strategy
Contact Deb at Purple Bee Training on 07806780161 email@example.com
This week, as part of a series of events aimed at raising awareness to safeguard young people I was one of a small team of trainers delivering messages, on a variety of topics relating to Risk and Making Safer Choices to Year 9 and 10 students at a local High School. A wonderfully diverse school with a positive vibe from both staff and students that instantly made visitors feel welcome and appreciated.
Despite the lovely atmosphere and warm welcome the sessions were as intense and thought provoking as ever – for me and for the students . My workshop on Young people and Substance can be challenging – whoever I deliver to there is often a mix of backgrounds and different levels of knowledge and understanding from attendees. Pitching at the right level while effectively addressing competing viewpoints is always a tough one – but once those views are batted back and forth the understanding and new learning you witness is always so rewarding .
There are limits to what you can offer in a 40 minute session however alongside other trainers from Essential Safeguarding we have , through interactive engaging and thought provoking workshops ensured that a few hundred students are definitely going out in the world more informed and more able to question and challenge what life puts into their path .
2 days and approx 450 students later I am reflecting on the seeds we planted this week and feeling pretty lucky to be doing the work that I do .We might not see the final bloom as these young people become young adults but we know we took part in planting those seeds