Sharon is a qualified counsellor. She sets up a free counselling service and holds sessions in the local community centre. A 15-year-old asks to arrange individual counselling sessions to talk about their problems in private, without their parents or carers.
Safeguarding and child protection measures
If you are working one-to-one with someone under 18 you need to have clear safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures to ensure both of you are protected.
> Learn more about writing safeguarding policies and procedures
If you’re carrying out certain types of work with children you need to undergo criminal records checks.
In England, Northern Ireland and Wales you will need an enhanced with barred list check if you are undertaking “regulated activity”. This includes unsupervised activities such as providing advice and guidance on wellbeing.
In Scotland, you will need a Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) check if you are undertaking “regulated work”. This includes providing personal services to children.
> Find out more about how and when to get criminal records checks
If you’re self-employed in England, Northern Ireland or Wales, you can:
- request a basic check for yourself
- ask an organisation you’re working with to apply for an “enhanced with barred list” check for you, if they are able to check and verify your eligibility and documentation.
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) provides information about criminal records checks in England and Wales (DBS 2020)1.
More information about criminal records checks in Northern Ireland is available from Access NI (Access NI, 2020)2.
If you’re self-employed in Scotland you can request a PVG check for yourself. The PVG scheme provides information about how to get a PVG check (Mygov.scot, 2020)3.
You need to assess the risks of the service you’re providing and make sure that you have appropriate measures in place to work safely and responsibly.
When working with anyone under 18 you should undertake training to make sure you know how to recognise and respond to safeguarding and child protection concerns. You should also keep up to date with relevant legislation and guidance.
> Get information on child protection training requirements in the UK
> View our training courses
> Sign up to CASPAR, the NSPCC’s current awareness newsletter for policy, practice and research
Best practice for one-to-one working
There are several measures you should put in place when working alone with a child or young person to make sure you are both protected.
- Make sure an appropriate adult, preferably someone with safeguarding responsibility, knows the time and place when you are alone with a child.
- Choose a suitable venue: use a room with windows so people can see in, or leave the door open.
- Ensure the young person knows they can stop the one-to-one contact at any time and make sure they know how to complain or get help if they need it.
- Make sure the child or young person knows they can contact Childline if they need to talk about anything.
- Keep a record of the fact you were alone with a child or young person, recording the reason you were alone and describing what happened.
> Learn more about working safely alone with children
It is important to get appropriate consent when undertaking a one-to-one session. Get consent from a parent or carer if the child is under 16. If they are 16- or 17-years-old, carefully consider whether parental consent is needed.
> See our example consent forms
It's best practice never to work with children under 16 without parental or carer consent. If the child doesn’t want their parents or carers to know they’re seeking counselling, suggest they get support from Childline instead.
Professionals in some roles might occasionally need to work with a child without parental consent.
> Find out how professionals use Gillick competency and Fraser guidelines to decide whether a child is mature enough to make decisions about things that affect them
In the case of counselling, children and young people might ask you not to tell their parents or carers about the things you discuss in your sessions. But if you become aware that a child or young person is at risk of significant harm you must share this information with the relevant agencies. If you are unsure whether to report something, contact the NSPCC Helpline for advice and support.
You should inform the child and their parents or carers before you start that you might not be able to keep information confidential if you need to take steps to protect them.
> Learn more about sharing information and consent
> Learn more about assessing a child’s competency to give consent
If you are working with children and young people in a rented space, it is your responsibility to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place to protect them.
You should have your own safeguarding and child protection policy and make sure you know what to do if you have a safeguarding concern.
> View our range of introductory child protection courses
You should also make sure you comply with the safeguarding policies and procedures of the organisation you are renting space from.
There should be procedures in place for you to escalate concerns about behaviour from members of other organisations using the space. Make sure you know who the nominated child protection lead is in the organisation you are hiring from.