Are you planning to use technology to connect with individuals or bring together ‘at risk’ groups to keep in touch, continue learning and developing new skills online?
If so, please read through the points below which are designed to help you identify your safeguarding responsibilities and how to fulfill them.
1. There is legislation and guidance which defines the safeguarding roles and responsibilities of groups and individuals:
- Children Act 1989
- Working Together to Safeguarding Children 2018, updated 2019
- Care Act 2014 (which has been partly suspended due to the Coronavirus Act 2020)
- Care and Support Statutory Guidance
- Legislation relevant to keeping safe online
See other relevant legislation and guidance across the UK
2. All who work with ‘at risk’ groups are responsible for having sound safeguarding policies in place which address the following issues, amongst others:
- safe recruitment practice - if you are not part of a group or organisation you should apply for a basic DBS check in England and Wales, AccessNI basic check in Northern Ireland or a Disclosure Scotland basic disclosure
- code of contact
- data protection
- good practice guidelines
- the need for training around recognition of, and response to safeguarding concerns.
Whether you are only providing your service during the Coronavirus pandemic or planning to develop it for future use, laying the foundations for safe, good practice is essential.
3. If you are:
- already part of an existing organisation or group in education , charity, entertainment and leisure, health, GP and PMS services, dental, faith-based, or overseas then the necessary policies should already be in place and freely accessible. You should also seek permission from the people, governors/ board members or trustees in charge to connect to ‘at risk’ groups by phone, online or via social media
- working in developing a service or activity which connects ‘at risk’ groups, as a group, or as an individual, you will need to put safeguarding at the forefront of your planning. SAFE Membership can help with this is it includes many up to date pro-forma versions of the documents required.
4. If, for example, you are running a group providing one to one sessions, organising virtual meet-ups or peer to peer support, there are important decisions and practical steps that will be required to ensure compliance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and safeguarding those you will be working with.
In these fast-changing times we find ourselves living through, it might be tempting to skip some of the steps required to work safely with ‘at risk’ groups. This is not an option. As a professional taking the lead you will need to think through the implications of what needs to be considered and carry out safeguarding risk assessments to decide what should be in place for:
- seeking parental consent for all those under 13 years of age, (by ’confirmed’ parent/carer e-mail is fine)
- seeking individual users' consent for those over 13 and assessing they have the mental capacity to do so
- the use of personal e-mail addresses and personal phones and iPads
- monitoring and ‘policing’ closed social media groups
- mixing age ranges of the social media and other groups who are either under, or over 18
- the implications around data capture and storage
- confidentiality and information sharing
- record keeping
- monitoring and supervision
5. In normal times good practice would be to always avoid using personal e-mails and devices. If this cannot be avoided in these difficult times, be very careful about maintaining professional boundaries as you would with face to face work and:
- be clear about confidentiality and how you will only share information if you are concerned about someone's welfare
- record everything you do, real time audio and visual where possible
- ensure everyone you work with knows and agrees to this
- if you cannot record real time, record notes of the purpose of the session, what was said and achieved. Store them on your organisation's secure storage server or similar, wherever possible
- retain records of ‘chatroom’ activity, where hosted by you
- be clear how long you will keep the records
- keep all e-mails for the time outlined in your privacy and data protection policies
- always use your organisation's website, social media platform and your professional e-mail account
- if working with individual children, young people or ‘adults at risk’, it is good practice to involve a colleague with all interactions
- if it is vital to work one to one online, check there is a responsible adult, who knows what you are doing, present and nearby in the home
The Information Commissioner's Office has these guidelines on "How do I work from home securely?"
IF YOU HAVE AN URGENT CONCERN ABOUT SAFETY OF A CHILD OR ‘ADULT AT RISK’, DO NOT DELAY: DIAL 999
FOLLOW THE GOVERNMENT INSTRUCTION: BE ALERT & STAY SAFE!