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 third in a series of six programmes related to safeguarding in the voluntary and community sector or VCS for short.
Our focus is on how mixed age group organisations can safeguard both children and adults in their care. Chris Cloke, who was until very recently, the NSPCC’s Head of Safeguarding in Communities and who worked for the NSPCC for over thirty years, was drafted back in to facilitate these podcasts.
Chris sat down and had a chat with Sarah Stanley from Brass Bands England and Lisa Curtis from the Ann Craft Trust. They explore some of the similarities, differences and challenges in safeguarding both adults and children and talk about where there is overlap.
They discuss what the VCS organisations’ responsibilities are to both children and adults, so that everyone is protected in the same way. Chris, Sarah, and Lisa discuss safer recruitment, the importance of separate policies and procedures and the importance of an organisation’s culture.
Finally, they provide advice on support and resources that are available to mixed age group organisations. Chris began by asking Lisa and Sarah what some of the main differences are between safeguarding adults and safeguarding children.
I mean to me obviously, the difference is that it’s different legislation and what we often find at the Ann Craft Trust is that people will sometimes try and apply their knowledge around child protection to adults and that doesn’t sort of fundamentally fit right because there are different issues with adults. Also adults’ safeguarding is underpinned with capacity issues - concerned issues - and has a different kind of perspective.
It encourages us to look at the individual as a whole and look at their wellbeing and how that might apply to them as an adult. And there are different sort of principles in terms of empowering the person, although we would still empower children and want children to take part, it’s looking at how it would apply to an adult in that situation, how we would work towards protecting an adult, getting them to be accountable and other people accountable and looking hugely at prevention as well. So fundamentally, one of the main differences in my mind is the issues around legislation.
Could you say a little bit more about the importance of consent and how actions in relation to safeguarding with adults will often depend on the older person giving consent? And it seems that with child protection, the child or young person won’t always be required to give that consent?
Yes, I mean consent is key really. So in terms of a safeguarding scenario, ideally the adult should be involved and should know about it and should agree. So we may have a person as an example who is a victim of domestic violence or is self-neglecting and they may not want you to do anything about it.
It could be financial abuse as well and sometimes people know and understand that they are being abused but want the situation to remain the same or they are not ready to move away from that situation. So there are lots of complex kinds of scenarios that are in place for adults really and this takes me back to my original point about understanding wellbeing for that person.
Because sometimes if we understand what wellbeing means, as the Care Act defines, that it’s about housing, employment, physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing - it’s about safety. And if we understand how all of that fits together for a person, there will be different sorts of situations which are stronger for them and more important, maybe, than keeping themselves safe.
So sometimes working, staying connected, providing information, signposting and actually being there for when a person feels that they come forward is really key in those kinds of scenarios.
What do you think are the areas where there is overlap between adult safeguarding and child safeguarding? What are the similarities?
I think the similarities are there in that organisations absolutely should have a responsibility to care for adults and children, but as we all know, adult safeguarding still has a long way to go in being really, really embedded in the culture. And I think through, particularly people who have worked in schools, it has been so, so, drilled in how important child safeguarding is and certainly with volunteer organisations, I feel that the impetus to really be looking after children has been there for much longer.
Definitely adult safeguarding should be at that level, but we’re not there yet and I think it’s the responsibility of lots of organisations to really, really make that a focus, to make sure that everyone is protected in the same way.
Thank you. Lisa, could you say something about some of the issues in relation to procedures and I suppose I’m thinking of the checking, recruitment and areas like that?
Yes, I mean there are obviously some similarities around there, around safer recruiting and people understanding what that entails around having robust policies and procedures in place, both for children and for adults.
We would always recommend that there are separate policies - one for a child and one for adults - because it’s different legislation and as soon as it’s put together, it kind of potentially could water down one or the other, so we do like to see that as separate.
Good record-keeping, defensible record-keeping, acting reasonably, acting fair; there are lots of things like that that are really good practice as well as, I think, having clear protocols, codes of conducts. People understanding their roles and responsibilities in the position that they are in because as soon as a person doesn’t understand that, then they may, you know, start to work towards a grey area or some poorer practice that wouldn’t be condoned by the organisation.
Brass Bands England is a membership organisation for Brass Bands and one of the things you offer, Sarah, to bands, is support with putting in place good safeguarding arrangements. Could you tell us a little bit more about your membership and the balance between bands for adults and bands for young people and indeed, bands for the mixed age group?
Yeah so, brass banding is an amazing community because it’s one of the few places now where you have truly inter-generational practice, which is completely amazing. So, you get fourteen-year-olds, fifteen-year-olds, playing with their parents and also playing with their grandparents, often in the same band that they have all played in, which is a wonderful community, but obviously that has its own risks and its own problems that come with that.
We have a real mix of groups that we work with. Some are youth bands, very specific youth bands but they have been set up in order to train young people. Often there’ll be a senior band that they will eventually move up into once their kind of ability is there.
But because of numbers, because of you know, having volunteers that are able to run those groups, because this is all volunteer-run, that’s not always possible. So, quite often, you will have young people in as part of the senior band and often that means that this is a senior band that has always had a senior band setup and hasn’t had to really think about children too much.
And suddenly, you have one or two children and that is where real difficulties can come sometimes because… someone has to take responsibility for those children, whether that’s one person as a welfare officer or the band as a whole and that can be quite a big cultural shift to make sure that there is a consistent awareness of what those children need.
So, what do you think are some of the things that you’ve noticed in terms of safeguarding about the differences between bands for children and young people and those for adults, or indeed, those bands mainly for adults?
I think the bands that are senior bands with a couple of young people involved in are definitely very protective of those children, definitely, and care deeply about them, and care about the process.
But often with that, comes this sense of this is a community that looks after each other and we don’t necessarily need safeguarding because we look after each other here. And it’s very, very close-knit; everyone lives very locally; everyone is in the history of brass banding, or worked in the same place; they are a community.
So breaking down that wall a little bit and saying yes, we appreciate that you care for each other as a community, but these policies and procedures are still necessary. It’s still necessary that you act responsibly and that you are thinking about the child.
That’s been… and that’s the big, big difference, I would say between those bands and youth bands because often the people who have set up youth bands and are running youth bands, a lot of those people will come from an education setting; they’ve worked with children a lot; they understand that in a much greater way. And obviously because of the nature of it, we get a lot of music teachers. A lot of teachers who come in to volunteer their time with banding, they just have a greater awareness already.
What we’re trying to do is make sure that everyone has that awareness, so that it’s not just those individuals who really go out of their way to set up those groups.
So it’s a question of making sure that there’s a kind of child focus. Could you give some examples? I understand, for example, that bands enter a lot of competitions, and go on tours; what are the sorts of situations that pose challenges?
A really common situation is, you know, a big part of banding culture is contesting. It’s a competitive environment; people are there to win, and it’s great; it’s a really buzzing event when everyone’s there to perform their best and do their best.
And just in a very similar way to sport, that can be a really, really great thing for children to be involved in. Hand in hand with that is a drinking culture, really; you’ve played, you’ve put all this adrenalin into this performance and you watch other bands, and you have a drink.
And in no way do we want to stop people having a good time, but there needs to be an awareness of the child that is within that band. There needs to be a bit more of a focus on knowing… someone being responsible, or the band as a collective knowing where they are and making sure that they’re not exposed to stuff that they shouldn’t be. That’s a really common example, I would say, of where there could be more focus on the child in kind of general banding.
And that in turn will impact upon the assessments or the risk assessments that are carried out.
Yeah exactly because if you know you’re going to be playing in a concert, where it’s very easy in terms of the setup, there isn’t going to be a bar there; it’s going to be in one location and the child comes away straight after that.
That’s a very, very different scenario where you’ve all got on a coach together; you’ve travelled four hours; you’re hanging around in one venue for quite a long time, which often happens. You know, the areas of banding are, you know, six areas across the country. That covers a lot if you’re coming from the bottom of Cornwall and you’ve got to travel all the way up. That’s a full day that someone’s got to be responsible for this child and think about them at all times and it’s easy not to do that.
But what we need to make sure is that they are thinking about them at all times, at every step and planning their events and their travels with the child in mind all the time.
Thank you. We’ve been talking about the specific world of brass bands, do you think there are lessons that can be learned here from the brass bands’ experience, for other organisations that are working across the age range?
Yes definitely. I think brass banding is very unique in lots of ways but we’re very, very similar to lots of youth orchestras, youth bands, wind bands and lots of other music organisations in particular. But also, I think there’s a lot of similarities between drama groups, particularly amateur dramatics.
Again, it’s one of those situations where it is usually inter-generational; there’s a big age gap for people participating; there’s drinking involved; there’s travel involved; there’s evening work involved. I think there’s a real link there that could do very, very similar things as we’ve done, making sure that their safeguarding policies and procedures are up-to-date and accurate and relevant to the work that they’re doing and making sure that responsible adults have had appropriate training.
I think the work that we’ve done in creating policies that are accessible and creating training that’s relevant has done a lot to get people engaged in that and other organisations could absolutely do the same with taking our work as a baseline and tweaking that.
There’s a lot to be said for just creating case scenarios as part of the training that’s very, very specific to the work that people are going to be doing because immediately they see this is a scenario that I could be in, this is what I might do in this scenario, and it’s gone a long way to make that accessible.
Lisa, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the world of brass bands, but do you think there are lessons in terms of other situations or other organisations where the experience…?
Yes, I was just really engrossed in what you were saying then because I could actually see and hear and feel the comparisons that can cut across many different situations and obviously, sports brings to mind because we work in the sports sector as well.
And all of those same things apply. Winning at the cost of perhaps safeguarding potentially; thinking about the adult’s and child’s welfare and wellbeing; travel, staying away from home; influence; wanting to win, wanting to please coaches or brass band leaders.
So it does cut across many different situations and I was also really interested though in the very first example that you were giving, in terms of the really strong culture that exists, and that can exist. Cultures exist all over the place, whether it’s in brass bands, sports, leisure centres, hospitals, care homes, wherever; cultures exist, and I guess for me, the thing is that from a safeguarding perspective, both children and adults, is that we try and ensure that that culture is as open and transparent as possible.
Because we know that if a culture is closed, people are less likely to come forward and speak out about a concern or a situation that they’re worried about. So cultures are of a big interest and we can learn a lot from those situations and I think your idea of case studies and things can really help break down some of those situations.
Those are really interesting points; the importance of culture. And Sarah, is it your experience with Brass Bands England that you know the importance of having a very open culture? Is that leading to more people talking about their experiences?
Yes, definitely and I think just the fact that we as an organisation are talking about safeguarding more, vocalising our feelings on it, making sure that people know that we are doing something; that has absolutely increased the amount that people have just called to ask us more queries and just wanted to know a little bit more about it, and that’s part of getting that ball rolling.
And I think we’re in a really lucky position where obviously, we are a membership organisation for our bands; within the bands, there’ll be… well, we would always recommend that there would be a welfare officer at least, but because we’re here as an overarching organisation and we’re talking about it, people feel like they’ve got another option and feel like they’ve got someone else to talk to and feel like they’ve got someone else to talk to who really knows.
And that’s been really, really great and people who have just accessed us a lot, lot more and they’re engaged with the work that we’re doing a lot which has been brilliant.
And Lisa, with some of the organisations that you’re working with where perhaps there are more adults than young people, are you finding the impact of changing the culture something which is beginning to be more accepted?
Yes, I think it can work both ways. If you work just with children, people divert to what they know about children rather than adults and it’s the same if you’re working in the adult sector. People sometimes in the adult sector… working in terms of safeguarding adults, might sort of think well, “I don’t need to safeguard those children because they’re just visiting” or “they’re just here for a short period of time”.
Or they will think of a legitimate reason why they think they haven’t got to consider it whereas actually safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. So, it’s interesting to sort of raise people’s awareness on both levels in terms of that because if we don’t raise people’s awareness, then they don’t know they need to do something about it.
So very much like you’ve said Sarah, it’s about raising that discussion, raising that chatter about safeguarding and not whispering about it but talking about it.
Thank you and I think the next question kind of builds on that a little bit because I’m interested in how would a child or young person or an adult at risk, know that their organisation takes keeping them safe seriously? Sarah…
I think one of the most important things is how you’ve become a part of that organisation and the recruitment process. What they have done to show you at that really early stage, what they’re doing to help you and what they’re doing to prevent harm to you and to others. Any organisation should have clear policies and procedures that relate to safeguarding and you should be able to see that.
So that’s a really, really key part but also when you are part of that organisation and part of that group, whether that be a voluntary group or whatever that may be, it’s really important that they have someone that is designated that you can talk to. That if you know very early on, if you have a concern, if you see something, or something happens that you’re not happy with, you have someone and you have a voice and I think that’s really, really important.
Thank you. Lisa, would you add to that?
Yes, I agree with everything that Sarah has said. I think that as well as having policies and procedures because anybody can have a robust policy and procedure, it’s about how it’s embedded within the organisation or the culture.
So making sure that that is understood by staff, carers, volunteers, whatever the situation, whatever the scenario is. So making sure that that is… becomes a working kind of practice, really.
One of the things I always say to people is not to be frightened of safeguarding and not to worry about it but to have it as part of your everyday kind of best practice, so that you are… and I don’t mean in a way so that you are on red alert all the time, for anything going wrong, but just so you are observing, that you’re approachable, so that you’re listening, so that you are observing and so that you know what to do when you need to do something.
So it’s not a tick-box exercise but it is something that the organisation truly is investing in and by investing in that, I mean making sure that the volunteer staff understand what that means, that they’ve been trained but also people who attend, who are part of that also know that it’s evident, that you can see it, that it’s on posters; it’s on… they’ve got numbers, things that they would see rather than a policy and that they can feel that’s part of where they are, that they are listened to, that they belong, that they’re part of something, which is worth being part of.
It comes back to culture again; so that they feel that if they needed to speak out, that they could and would and that they would be listened to and that the person they are reporting to would know exactly how to handle that situation as well.
That’s really important and as you say, coming back to the culture and how we change the culture so that safeguarding is a priority. It’s great to hear about the work that Ann Craft Trust and Brass Bands England are doing in terms of promoting the safeguarding of children, young people and adults; what support is available to organisations that work with mixed age groups? What resources are available? What can organisations draw on?
The main resource that we’ve drawn on is NSPCC themselves, just as the kind of resources they have available on their website, for us and for our member bands but also the help that they provided us in developing the toolkit and developing the training.
But what I would say as well is that delving into safeguarding to this degree was not part of our original business plan. We are quite a young organisation and this, we didn’t plan for this. I’m so glad that we have and it’s now become a real core of what we do but ultimately, we felt like the work needed to be done, so we found a way to do it.
And I think that’s a lesson for a lot of organisations. It’s important work that needs to be done, so find a way, ultimately.
Lisa, what would you add?
Yes, to add to that, I think that it is great that you recognise that you need to do it and I think many organisations are in that situation where they know they need to do something but they’re not sure what it is and we will often receive calls along those lines.
It could be because they want to set up a group, or yes, they’ve got a mixed group or it’s a group that started off as a group for children but it’s gradually merged into adults over time.
We tend to direct people either to the NSPCC, as you said, but we have a lot of resources ourselves as well, specifically for disabled children and then for adults, and for sport as well, so we have a lot of templates. If somebody wanted to know what a policy and procedure might look like, best practice, we’ve got things like that to show people, we’ve got resource booklets for all sorts of situations.
We’ve done a lot of work with sport and we’ve just launched a Safeguarding Adults in Sports framework as well to try and address some of those situations that you’ve just been talking about in brass bands.
And it’s good to know that organisations are working together and so I know that NSPCC works closely with Brass Bands England and with Ann Craft Trust; so, there are resources there which can be drawn on and it’s good, you know, that people can know what they are.
I think information is crucial and certainly, I always think that NSPCC’s Library and Information Service is a very valuable resource. NSPCC Learning and the NSPCC are certainly providing a range of resources in relation to child safeguarding.
Sarah, what do you see as next steps for Brass Bands England?
Our next step is to develop the work that we’ve already done in terms of the online toolkit and the training courses that we’re running and to move that into adult safeguarding which is something that we’re not covering yet. We do in a lot of ways in our policies but in terms of the training, I think that’s a gap that we have that we need to fill.
So that’s where we’ll be looking next and the NSPCC have been very, very good and very forthcoming with linking up with organisations that could help us with that and I think the important thing is when you’re looking for resources is to ask - just say what it is that you want and what you need for your organisation and someone will be able to help you.
Lisa, is there anything you’d like to add?
Yes, I think what I’d add in relation to that is that it needs to be relevant to that organisation. Because if you try to just talk about a piece of policy, sometimes people don’t understand how that relates to them, whether it’s in brass bands, or in sport, or in a leisure centre, or a care home, or whatever. It’s got to make sense to them - their role, their level of responsibility - so that they can truly implement that and take it to heart really which is what we want people to do and to use it.
So yeah, that’s one of my sort of things that I’ve really learned. That you could deliver what you think is really good training but if it’s not relevant to the person then they’re not going to learn anything.
Absolutely crucial, thank you. Is there anything else you’d like to raise, relating to adult safeguarding and child safeguarding?
Yes, I’d like to add that it’s really important that we continue to learn from safeguarding incidents whether that’s children or adults and that we critically analyse where we could have intervened sooner, or where we could prevent something from happening going forward and actually what organisations can do about it to improve that situation.
Any other final points from anybody?
Yeah I think just to follow on what you said Lisa, there’s a real need for organisations to be adaptable, to listen to the adults, to the children that they are dealing with, to engage with serious case reviews, to engage with changes in policy and procedure, to make sure that they are always one step ahead of the game, rather than waiting and seeing what might happen and then tentatively moving.
It’s really important that organisations are taking good, clear steps into always protecting the people that they’re working with regardless of who they are or where they are.
That seems a good note on which to end. So Lisa Curtis from the Ann Craft Trust and Sarah Stanley from Brass Bands England, thank you very much for spending time with us today to talk about these important issues. Thank you.
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