Welcome to NSPCC Learning, a series of podcasts that cover a range of child protection issues to hopefully inform, create debate and tell you all about the work we do to keep children safe. At the heart of every podcast is the child’s voice and how what they tell us informs the work we do.
Hi and welcome to the latest NSPCC Learning podcast. This is the second in a series of six programmes related to safeguarding in the voluntary and community sector or VCS for short. This week’s programme focuses on the role of the nominated child protection lead.
Helen Munn, who is the NSPCC’s Head of Online Learning sat down and had a chat with Trupti Kavia, who is the Head of Family Services for Home-Start in Barnet, Brent, Enfield and Harrow and Cate Meredith, one of the NSPCC’s Senior Consultants for Safeguarding in Communities.
Trupti, Cate and Helen give an overview of the role of a child protection lead and provide advice on how to deal with concerns that someone might have for a child or young person.
They talk about the importance of multi-agency relationships, understanding the role at a strategic level but also how it works in practice and they discuss training needs, including supervision and support for someone who takes on the role of a child protection lead.
Trupti, Cate and Helen also talk about ways to make the role visible to children and young people so that they know who to go to for support if needed.
Helen began by asking Cate and Trupti what’s involved in the role of a nominated child protection lead.
There are a number of different things, very important parts of the role and an important thing to remember is that a lot of people, particularly in smaller voluntary sector organisations are doing this role alongside other jobs as well as Trupti is for example, so for some people it can just be part of their role but it is a very big part of their role and it can include a number of different things.
So, one of the different things that it might include would be leading on policy and procedure and helping to develop those policies and procedures and take a lead role in reviewing them.
It might also include something like accessing training on safeguarding, either for the person themselves or for members of the team.
I guess another important part of the role is making sure that everybody in the organisation is aware of policies and procedures around safeguarding and that would include the members of the workforce, so it will include staff and volunteers but also children and families themselves because they need to know who they should go to if they have a concern of any kind.
Another thing that is often part of the role is being the contact person for anybody in the organisation who has a concern about a child and that could be a member of staff or it could be a child or it could be a family that might be unhappy about something that’s happened during the contact that they’ve had with the organisation.
It could be about being the person who makes referrals to a statutory agency if there is a concern that a child or adult is at risk or an adult may be presenting a risk perhaps as well.
It can include responsibilities around safeguarding records, making sure that they’re kept securely and looked after properly and also it could include reporting to their management committee or the board on the organisation’s safeguarding arrangements and just as importantly looking after their own training and development needs around safeguarding, making sure that they’re up-to-date themselves on perhaps changes in the law or changes in guidance, so a very wide range of different responsibilities and activities that the nominated safeguarding and child protection lead could get involved with.
Thank you, Cate.
Trupti, how does that compare to how you see your role? Do you take on all of those responsibilities yourself or do you share them with anyone?
Yeah, I think it’s really important to share these responsibilities with someone.
I think it’s too much of a big role for one person to hold. So, you could have a deputy, lots of organisations would either share or split the role or even have safeguarding team.
It’s important to have a lead so possibly a senior member of the staff or for example, in our organisation, we have a board of trustees and we also have a nominated safeguarding member of the staff so just to have that layer of support is really important.
And who do you report to? Is that your trustees?
Yeah, so I would report to the CEO and then that would be the board of trustees.
Thank you Trupti. Can you talk us through what might typically happen if someone in your organisation came to you with a concern about a child or a young person?
Okay sure, so there’s two aspects to this. So one of them, it could be where a volunteer, a member of staff or a trustee has a safeguarding concern about a child or a child makes a disclosure about possible abuse. In this case, it’s important to inform the DSO or in their absence it would be the strategic safeguarding lead.
In the case of a disclosure, make it clear that the we cannot keep the information confidential and then if it’s necessary, the DSO, being myself, would make contact with the local children’s social care for advice or to make an appropriate referral.
Or the second aspect, it could be in term of concerns or allegations about a volunteer, a trustee or a member of staff who’s working with the local Home-Starts, on behalf of Home-Start, where there’s been an abuse happening.
So again, in this instance, it’s important to inform the DSO and again, if the DSO is not around, in their absence it would be the strategic safeguarding lead. Unless the allegation is about this person, in which case, inform the most senior member of staff or trustee that’s not been implicated and again, depending on what the outcome the person to whom this information has been given, makes contact with the Local Authority Designating Officers, so the LADO for some further advice and guidance.
So it’s a lot for you to think about, a lot of different processes that you need to consider?
Cate, have you got anything you want to add into that?
Yes, I was thinking about what Trupti was saying as she was giving her answer and it’s clear that yes, there’s an awful lot of responsibility that she takes and I think the points that Trupti was making about having someone else to help you is really important.
I think it’s important on several levels. One of the reasons why it’s important is that it actually is so much more supportive to the person who is in the lead role, in this case Trupti, to know that there’s someone there actually sharing that load with her.
It can actually feel quite a lonely and isolating job if you’re actually doing that yourself and what can sometimes happen in organisations, if that is the case, is that everybody else in the organisation can think, “phew, we don’t have to worry about safeguarding because Trupti’s looking after it all so you know, she’ll just take care of all of that and we can just do what we do really”. So, I think it’s very supportive to the nominated lead herself if that happens.
I think it’s also much safer from the organisation’s point of view. One of the points that Trupti made was that, she made the comment that if the complaint or if the concern is about the lead herself and clearly if someone has a concern about the lead then actually, it would be wrong and not absolutely the right thing at all to go to the lead and say, “I’ve got a concern about you because I think you might be presenting a risk to children” or “I’m not happy about something that you’ve done or whatever”.
It’s really important for the person who has a concern to have another line to go to, someone who isn't implicated as Trupti said and it also demonstrates that the organisation is transparent and ensures that there are ways and means of people being able to register their concerns and make the organisation aware of their concerns in a way that’s going to keep them safe and that the organisation will look after that properly.
And I think the last point that I’d like to pick up on from what Trupti was saying was around the trustee board. Clearly if the organisation is a charity then trustees have a huge role to play.
For organisations that aren't charities, they’re still likely to have maybe a management committee or something like that and it’s a very important thing and actually it’s something that is expected in national guidance as well and in Charity Commission Guidance.
For example, there should be somebody right at the very top of that organisation, at trustee level or at management board level who is really flying the flag for safeguarding and saying “we are an organisation that takes safeguarding seriously. I, at the top of this organisation take safeguarding seriously and the line of accountability is to me”. And that is something that’s come out of some of the inquiries into some of the awful tragedies that have happened and so it’s a very important thing for organisations and groups to do.
It sounds like it’s a high level of responsibility, there’s a lot on your shoulders. I’m sure it must also be very satisfying as well at times?
Yes, absolutely and I think one of the most satisfying thing for me in this role would be that I’m able to advocate for the families that are supported by Home-Start and also supporting and nurturing, the staff there are really passionate in the delivery of safeguarding.
Me personally being a part of a professional network that provides holistic support and being connected to other agencies so the multi-agency working is really important in making sure that we’re safeguarding our children and being able to look at what resources may be available because again, it’s all down to funding and resources and just being able to create opportunities for change. I think that’s really rewarding.
Yes, I think what you were saying Trupti about being part of that change and taking a lead role in that change process. Many people find that a really rewarding thing. It’s also a difficult thing and can be deeply uncomfortable but I think it’s a very rewarding thing and I think the vast majority of people working with children and young people desperately want to keep them safe.
They want to do that job to the very best of their ability but sometimes it can be difficult in organisations if there’s a lot of confusion and muddle about how that happens or if the organisation isn't well organised and thought through about how it wants staff to talk about concerns that they have.
And so for members of the workforce and volunteers to see that there’s somebody there who is actually taking a lead on that and is sort of in the driving seat really with that journey that the organisation is making and to see things then fall into place and to provide them with opportunities to talk about some of the emotional aspects of safeguarding, it’s such an important thing and I think can be a very rewarding thing as well but it takes a special person to do it.
Obviously, it isn't something that just anybody can do and I think that’s a thing that organisations need to be aware of. It needs to be somebody who is resilient and who can cope with some of the sort of backlash about it and who has leadership qualities. They are the kind of people who make the best designated safeguarding leads in my opinion.
I agree, and I think it’s also important, I mean as you say, not just a resilience but to have that support, that’s really important, so to ensure that you’ve actually got the support of all senior members of staff but also your staff and volunteers that are actually going out in the community, that’s really important and the board of trustees. I mean they’re crucial in supporting any change, so I agree - absolutely.
I think one of the things as we’re talking about it actually, it’s just reminded me about when we were listing all those different things that the lead can be expected to do, it’s almost an impossible kind of job description isn't it? I mean how many people are there who can actually do all those things one hundred percent brilliantly? And I think that’s another argument in favour of there being more than one person dealing with it.
So if there is, for example, the way in which it’s split a lot of the time is for one person to be the person who is taking the lead on all the policy development work and that change management work, managing that cultural change in an organisation as it makes its journey towards safer practice; and then someone else who perhaps is a person who has very close contact with volunteers or with families themselves who is very much a sort of a trusted person at that very grassroots level in a slightly bigger organisation.
That’s the way that it can work well because say children and families are perhaps more likely to talk to somebody who they know well and who they’ve perhaps worked with and feel comfortable with whereas someone who has all that strategic role is, almost inevitably, likely to be someone who is a little bit at a distance from that.
Training must be really important as well because people don’t come into these roles being experts in safeguarding. If they have a sports or an art or a management or a housing background and then they’re give this role and expected to do all those things - that must also be really hard to be thrown into that role and given this responsibility - or all of the responsibilities in some organisations.
I agree, absolutely. So, I think that like you said, Kate, it’s really important to have that understanding where it’s at a strategic level but also at ground level when you’ve got your staff who are going out there and to be connected with the needs, like you said Helen, where the members of staff actually have an understanding of what the complexities and the challenges are so that we can train our staff to the best possible way, I suppose.
I think that point about training is very interesting Helen because sometimes when people come to the NSPCC for training around their nominated child protection lead role, they might be people who maybe have not had a lot of choice about taking on that role. They’ll come and they’ll say, “ooh, well I took on this role last week and I don’t really know what it is I’m expected to do” and “ooh, you know, I realise it’s going to be a steep learning curve for me”. And clearly I think perhaps that wasn’t the case for Trupti because you’ve had such a lot of experience working with children and families anyway but I think what you were saying Helen about someone who has almost had to step into that when they don’t have a background in that and are kind of a little bit perhaps starting from scratch in safeguarding terms, I think getting their own knowledge base and their own confidence in the role up to speed is the most important thing for them to do first of all really.
And thinking about at what level they need to pitch that training and it might be several bits of training that they need to do.
So if someone does come in fresh with no background knowledge, what would you advise Cate? What do you think that they need to do initially in terms of basic training to give them… because it may be that on their first day of the job a child comes to them and discloses abuse or another family member might raise a concern.
I think that’s a really important question. It is a very real thing that could happen, isn't it? I think the first thing is for that person to have some good, strong foundation knowledge about what are we talking about when we’re talking about safeguarding.
What are some of the different types of abuse that children and young people can experience and what might be some of the signs and indicators of that abuse and how might they become aware of a concern - because I think a lot of people think that the way in which you become aware that a child might be at risk of abuse or experiencing abuse is because a child is going to come and tell you.
That is absolutely - I don’t know what Trupti thinks about this, but in my experience - that is absolutely the least likely way that you’re going to actually start to become aware of concerns about a child.
It’s much more likely to be maybe something that you observe yourself in that child or else in an interaction that that child might have with other people or with a parent, or it might be information that gets passed to you second-hand by another parent about a particular family or it might be something that a child says about another child and actually – and they might be talking about themselves but because that’s how children sometimes test things out.
So, it’s understandable that people come into safeguarding thinking that, “oh, it’s all about managing and listening well to disclosures that children make to me” and it is about that, but it’s about having a sort of 360 degree awareness about how you might pick up a concern and that involves a really good basic grounding about safeguarding.
And once people have that basic training, what’s next? What else do they need to learn? Is there anything specific that’s around the role?
Well then I think it’s about, for something that goes beyond that basic awareness about what child abuse is and how to perhaps recognise it and also what the law says about that, into some of the very specific aspects of the job around being the designated safeguarding lead.
And one of the things around that I think is about partly, it’s about how to take that lead role in building a safe culture in an organisation, that sort of strategic thing we were talking about a bit earlier on so that people are safe and willing to share concerns and checking out that people genuinely do feel like that in the organisation because often there can be an assumption that, “oh this is a lovely, comfortable organisation and people are very happy to share concerns” and for some people in the organisation, the reality might be different.
So it’s about what the lead person can do to help build that safe culture and linked to that is actually recognising what some of the barriers might be, not only to children and young people talking about what is happening for them that isn't nice, but also barriers that volunteers and staff can experience in actually becoming aware of that in the first place and then passing that on and then being the person who can really be receptive to those types of disclosures and those types of concerns coming forward. And that can be a tricky thing because there are all sorts of things that can get in the way of us allowing ourselves to become aware about a concern about a children or young person.
I absolutely agree, I think that’s a very important point. So, in Home-Start, we absolutely ensure that supervision and support is part of the structure because again, we have volunteers going into the family’s homes and it’s very easy for them to be working in isolation and not having that understanding of something that may look like a safeguarding issue.
So to have that support from a member of staff, for them to actually understand it and bring it back to the organisation as well and flag certain things up - so training again, becomes a very important role.
But it’s sounding like it’s not only the initial training, that upfront training, it’s also really important to have the ongoing support in terms of being able to manage those issues and have the confidence that you’re dealing with them properly.
Yes, absolutely again. It becomes a wraparound service and where supervision is not just important for the volunteers but also for the members of staff.
And that leads us back to what we were talking about at the beginning about working together, both within your own organisation or group and also working with other organisations and agencies.
Yes clearly and Trupti was saying nearer the beginning of the podcast about that importance of multi-agency work and the lead role that a nominated child protection lead takes in that multi-agency communication and that isn't always a straightforward thing.
We all know how much pressure Local Authorities are under and children’s social care departments are under and so, having a good relationship with statutory partners and being able to make a good quality referral if there’s a concern about a children or young person who might be at risk of abuse, is such an important skill and it’s a really important thing for a designated lead to be able to have support in doing well.
And then if the response to that referral doesn’t fit with the designated lead’s reading of the severity of the situation, then there might, in some circumstances, be a need to escalate it and again, that is not always an easy thing to do when you’re dealing with statutory partners as well.
Not because they don’t want to listen or not because they’re not committed to keeping children and young people safe but because of the pressures that they’re under as well and because of the amount of work that they’re trying to get through. So again, there’s a real need to be able to nurture those multi-agency relationships and to be able to make those referrals in a good quality way.
So considering how important the child protection lead is, how do other agencies and also children and young people know who this lead is?
Trupti, how does it work in Home-Start Barnet?
Right, so for us, it’s very important that children and young people are informed through various literature that we have. For example, our safeguarding policies would have a named person on this and this would be introduced to them at an initial contact and then staff and volunteers would be aware of who the named person is, who the DSO is and this again gets filtered through all our support given to families and children.
This would again be part of our code of conduct, it would be on our referral forms, it would also be part of the GDPR documents, which is really important, just to bring in, and again, any social media that we have, some form it would be related back to who the DSO would be on there.
And Cate, from your experience as a consultant going into lots of other organisations and groups, how does it work in maybe different settings?
Yes, I think drawing that distinction between different types of voluntary sector groups and organisations is really helpful Helen, in trying to think about different ways in which an organisation might do this.
Trupti’s organisation obviously undertakes work with families that in some circumstances already have issues that they’re trying to deal with and that is why Home-Start became involved. And so, the relationship that the family might have with Home-Start it’s very important for that to be on that kind of footing really where the family is very clear right from the outset about what the organisation’s position is about safeguarding and who they should go to if they have a concern and how the organisation might respond and everything as well and that almost is part of the kind of contracting that an organisation like Home-Start would undertake at the beginning of its work with a particular family.
For organisations whose work is very different, so maybe as you say, a little youth group that uses a village hall or something like that, then clearly a different approach needs to be taken but it’s equally important that the children and young people coming to that youth club in that village hall know who to talk to if they have a concern.
Some of the ways in which that can be done for example is by negotiating group rules with the group, so sometimes that’s sort of put on the wall and part of that is if you’re worried about anything, talk to so and so, maybe a photograph of the person that they can talk to or here’s a little box where you can write something and let us know about it or here’s a number that you can contact if you don’t want to talk about anything during the session and that that kind of information is made available to parents as well as to children and young people. That it’s done in an accessible way, in an easy way, in a friendly way that doesn’t make it all sound as though this is the big red button and when you press this button, you’ll instantly be removed from your family and the world will come tumbling down kind of thing.
Yeah, so it does need to be very much kind of tailored to the organisation and I think just having conversations about it, I think for a smaller community group, just to make it part of their everyday conversations - not a massive deal. Sometimes, if you’re worried about stuff, if you need a bit of time to talk to somebody about something, then you can talk to so and so or if you don’t want to talk to so and so, then you can talk to this person, so that there are those options that we talked about as well.
I think those sorts of things really and I think also it’s reassuring for parents. Lots of parents that I’ve spoken to might say something like, “oh, my son or daughter would really like to join this particular group but I haven't seen anything about their approach to safeguarding, I haven't seen any evidence that they actually thought about safeguarding and he really wants to learn to play the drums or whatever it is, but I don’t know how confident I feel about them going to that group”.
So, I think if a group is really upfront about that in a friendly way, in an accessible way, then that shows that that organisation, that group takes safeguarding seriously. It shows that they want to work positively with parents and with young people as well and it’s just a really good way of demonstrating that that organisation is interested and very committed to keeping children and young people safe and have thought about how they’re going to do it in practical terms.
Thank you. And in terms of people listening to this podcast, if we’ve raised lots of question that they feel they need answers for, where can they go for more information and support?
Well the NSPCC has information available if people would like to go on our website. They can go on nspcc.org.uk/vcs and then they’ll go to the part of the website that is specifically set up for smaller voluntary and community sector groups. There they can find information about training for nominated child protection leads and information to help those leads around policy development and resources like our standards and our introductory guide to child protection that can help them.
If they just want to have somebody on the end of the phone that they just want to talk to about it, then again, they can contact us through our enquiries service so that’s what’s available from the NSPCC.
I think also it’s really important for nominated leads to have support at a more local level and I don’t know if Trupti you feel that you have support from colleagues and other people in a similar role, maybe within Home-Start more widely or others in your locality.
Yes, so we have a lot of support from Home-Start UK. They have a safeguarding team, so if there were any information or advice that we needed, that’s where we would go to but also, most of our policies and procedures are guided by Home-Start UK, so I think it’s really important for local sort of small organisations to have that support from the charity leads as well.
Yes, thank you both, I think we’ve had a really interesting discussion and I know I’ve learnt a lot personally.
I wonder if I could ask you to end maybe with what your main point is or your top tip for anyone who is either a child protection lead for a charity or is about to become one? So Cate, do you want to start us off with your top tip?
I would like to say to those existing leads or people who are about to become one, thank you so much for doing this for children and young people and you’re not on your own, there’s support around. Please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you and good luck with all the work that you’re doing.
Yeah, I think just to reiterate what Cate says, I think it’s very important for DSOs to understand that this isn't a role that you can take on your own, it’s important to ask for help and just to keep up-to-date with training and what new information’s out there and support’s out there.
Great, thank you both.
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