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Writing safeguarding policies and procedures

Last updated: 20 Dec 2023
Introduction

Children have the right to be protected from harm. If your organisation or group works with children or young people you must have a clear set of guidelines about how you will:

  • keep children safe
  • respond to child protection concerns.

Your safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures are an important part of protecting children and young people. They must be supported by good governance, health and safety, financial management, staff supervision and management.

This page explains how to write a safeguarding or child protection policy statement that sets out your organisation's commitment to keeping children safe.

What is a safeguarding policy statement?

A safeguarding or child protection policy statement makes it clear what your organisation or group will do to keep children safe.

It should set out:

  • your organisation's commitment to protecting all children
  • the more detailed policies and procedures your organisation will put in place to keep children safe and respond to child protection concerns.

What are safeguarding and child protection procedures? 

Safeguarding and child protection procedures are detailed guidelines and instructions that support your overarching safeguarding policy statement. They explain the steps that your organisation will take to keep children and young people safe and what to do when there are concerns about a child's safety or wellbeing.

For example, your safeguarding procedures should cover issues like how staff and volunteers should respond to concerns about a child and young person and how you will make sure you recruit the right people to work with children and young people.

You should also ensure that staff and volunteers know what to do if they are concerned about anything happening in a child's life - whether or not it is happening within your organisation. 

Where to start

Getting started on your safeguarding policy statement

There are different ways to write a safeguarding or child protection statement, but before you put pen to paper it's helpful to think about:

  • the potential risks to a child in your organisation
  • how someone might raise a concern
  • the practicalities of who should be involved in writing the policy statement.

It is also useful to think about all the things that you might already be doing to help make your organisation a place where children and young people can flourish, have positive experiences and stay safe.

Things to consider

  • What are the potential risks to children - who may pose a risk? what situations may increase risk?
  • How do you make sure the people who work or volunteer for your organisation are suitable to do so?
  • What are the different ways someone might raise a concern about a child's wellbeing?
  • How should you respond to concerns or allegations of harm that has happened within your organisation?
  • How does this overarching policy statement link up with your more detailed child protection procedures?
  • How will you make sure everyone involved with your organisation is aware of how to spot and respond to child protection concerns?

> Find out more about best practice for recognising and responding to abuse

Practical tips

  • Tailor your policy statement to suit the needs of your organisation.
  • Use words and phrases that will mean the most to the group or community.
  • Involve people from different parts of the organisation to make sure the policy is relevant for everyone.
  • Think about how you can involve children and incorporate their perspective.
  • Ask different people in different roles to read the policy statement and feedback to ensure it is accessible to everybody.
Writing a policy statement

Writing a safeguarding and child protection policy statement

Your policy statement should be clear, concise and cover all the information listed below. Aim to keep it to two sides of A4 paper if possible, though you may need more space depending on your organisation's needs and context.

Purpose and aim of the policy statement

Identify the organisation, its purpose and function. Set out the organisation's overarching commitment to keeping children safe.

Scope of the policy statement

Be clear about who the policy applies to. It should cover all children under 18 but are all adults expected to comply with it? Should it just be staff and volunteers who work directly with children? What about those who have occasional contact with children such as a caretaker?

Context

Briefly state the main legislation and guidance that supports the policy statement. Explain how this policy statement links to more detailed child protection policies and procedures.

> Find out more about the child protection system in each UK nation

Policy statement

Set out your organisation's beliefs about the importance of child protection.

  • For example, "we believe everyone has a responsibility to promote the welfare of all children and young people, to keep them safe and to practise in a way that protects them".
  • Include a statement about equality and a commitment to anti-discriminatory practice. For example "we will give equal priority to keeping all children and young people safe regardless of their age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation".
  • Make sure your policy statement recognises that some children are additionally vulnerable because of the impact of discrimination, previous experiences, their level of dependency, communication needs or other issues.

Find more about:

Explain how, in broad terms, the organisation will meet your commitment to keeping children safe. For example by:

  • listening to children and respecting them
  • appointing a nominated child protection lead and a member of the trustee board who takes lead responsibility for safeguarding at the highest level in the organisation
  • writing detailed safeguarding and child protection procedures
  • making sure all staff and volunteers understand and follow the safeguarding and child protection procedures
  • ensuring children, young people and their families know about the organisation's safeguarding and child protection policies and what to do if they have a concern
  • building a safeguarding culture where staff, volunteers and children know how they are expected to behave and feel comfortable about sharing concerns.

Supporting documents

You need a set of more detailed policies and procedures which explain the steps adults within your organisation must take to keep children safe. Your policy statement should include a list of these. You can find more details about writing these policies and procedures on the "writing safeguarding policies" tab.

Contact details

Include the names and contact details of the people responsible for safeguarding and child protection in your organisation.

Include the contact details for the NSPCC Helpline and Childline so that people know they can contact us if they need child protection advice, support or reassurance.

Dates

Provide the date the policy statement comes into force.

It's important to keep the statement up to date so you should include review dates and make sure the review happens on time.

Signature

Your policy statement should be signed and dated by the most senior person in your organisation who has responsibility for safeguarding and child protection.

Example policy statement

> See an example safeguarding and child protection policy statement

> Read the NSPCC's safeguarding and child protection policy (PDF)

Next steps after completing your safeguarding policy statement

When you have completed your overarching safeguarding and child protection policy statement, you need to ensure that all adults and children are aware of, understand and can access your safeguarding policies.

You should consider:

  • how you will tell everyone about new or updated policies and any challenges that might arise
  • how to ensure your policy is accessible to people with communication difficulties or different language needs. 

References

Writing procedures

Writing safeguarding and child protection procedures

Your overarching safeguarding and child protection policy statement should refer to a set of more detailed policies and procedures. These procedures should outline the steps that must be taken if there are any concerns about a child's or young person's safety and wellbeing.

It is essential that your procedures are clear and easy to follow. Make sure each procedure includes the items below. 

Purpose and aim of the procedure

Every procedure you create should clearly state its aim and purpose and who it applies to. For example, each procedure should be written for everyone who comes into contact with children and young people even if it is not their main role in your organisation. 

Summary of useful information

Include a summary of any information that is relevant. For example, a procedure about responding to concerns about a child's wellbeing could include a description of the different types of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect) as well as the signs and indicators that might be a cause for concern. 

Clear instructions

Each procedure should include clear steps of the action needed. You could consider using diagrams and flowcharts to help make the steps easy to follow.

If someone is concerned about child's welfare they should tell the nominated child protection lead or their deputy. Any concerns must be kept confidential and should not be discussed with anyone other than the child protection lead, who should make a referral to children's services. Reporting concerns helps children's services build an overall picture of the child's life and the support they or their family may need.

If a child tells you they are experiencing abuse, it’s important to reassure them that they’ve done the right thing in telling you. Make sure they know that abuse is never their fault. Never promise a child that you will keep the things they’re telling you a secret. Explain that you need to share what they’ve told you with someone who will be able to help.

> Find out more about recognising and responding to abuse

What information to record

Ensure the procedure details how, when and what information needs to be recorded. You should also cover who should record this information (for example, your organisation's nominated child protection lead) and where records should be stored.

Contact details 

Make sure the procedure includes contact details for anyone who needs to be informed, including any external agencies and make sure it's clear who is responsible for making any referrals. This should be your organisation's nominated child protection officer.

It is important that staff and volunteers know who to speak to and don't feel they are on their own when dealing with a worrying situation. Parents, children and young people also need to know who to talk to if they are worried. 

Confidentiality

Be clear about confidentiality. Information should only be shared with people who need to know. Make sure your procedures are clear about what should be shared and who with. Remember you must share any concerns you have about a child, even if they ask you not to. 

Ensure your procedures are clear and accessible

Make sure that all adults and children are aware of, understand and can access your safeguarding and child protection procedures. Reading them should be part of your induction processes and training.

> See our Introduction to safeguarding and child protection training

> See our Safeguarding 16 to 25 year olds training

You may need to provide procedures in different languages or in other formats such as Braille or large text. You should also consider whether you need a child-friendly version. Decide in advance how you will tell everyone about any new or updated procedures.

Dates

Provide the date the procedures come into force. It's important to keep procedures up to date so you should include review dates and make sure the review happens on time.

What procedures should you have?

When writing your more detailed policies and procedures you should consider all elements of keeping a child or young person safe. You should make sure your procedures cover:

> View our Introductory guide to safeguarding for the voluntary and community sector

Reviewing safeguarding policies and procedures

Safeguarding and child protection is a continuous process and it’s vital every organisation assesses whether what they’re doing is working.

Our free self-assessment tool provides a step-by-step guide to the review process. The tool can help schools and other organisations:

  • identify areas for development
  • find advice and resources to help improve policies and practice
  • access a bespoke action plan
  • update your progress as many times as they like.

Following a clear and proportionate review process can help you can ensure your policies and procedures are up to date and working well.

Making sure your safeguarding policies and procedures are effective

Start using our free self-assessment tool

Our tool will help you quickly identify areas for development and support you in making any necessary changes.

> Try out our safeguarding and child protection self-assessment tool

Establish who should be involved in the review

The review should be led by your nominated child protection lead. Depending on what you’re reviewing and the size and type of organisation, it may help to form a working group to make sure all relevant people are involved.

> Find out more about the role of the nominated child protection lead

Consider what you need to review

Start by identifying all the written policies and procedures which need reviewing, before moving on to other related systems and processes such as training, recruitment and governance.

Agree criteria and ratings for the review

Decide how you will you assess your safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures consistently. Whatever rating system you use, it needs to be clear and measurable.

Identify any internal or external changes

Evaluate any changes that have occurred since the last review, both within the organisation and externally.

Internal changes that may impact child safeguarding and child protection practices could include changes to personnel, organisational structure or size, who your organisation works with, or how you work with them.

Policies and procedures may also need to change to reflect external changes, such as new guidance, emerging technologies or societal changes.

It’s important to stay up to date with the latest child protection and safeguarding legislation and guidance to stay aligned with the legal requirements and standards.

> Keep up to date with the latest child protection and safeguarding news by signing up to our CASPAR newsletter

Check files and paperwork

Performing a file audit will help you assess whether current safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures are being followed.

For example, were vetting and barring checks done in a timely manner and did staff and volunteers receive safeguarding training when they started?

Talk about your safeguarding measures and gather feedback

Speak to everyone involved with your organisation, including employees, volunteers, parents and carers, and children themselves.

Conduct surveys, interviews, or focus groups to gather their perspectives on the effectiveness of the current policies and procedures and any areas for improvement.

Assess policy effectiveness

Review your findings and evaluate the existing policies and procedures against current best practices, legal requirements, and industry standards. Are there any gaps, weaknesses, or areas where policies may need revision or enhancement?

If there have been safeguarding incidents, are there lessons to be learnt from how they were dealt with?

> Create a tailored action plan using our self-assessment tool

Update policies and procedures

Incorporate the findings from the review process into the safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures.

Organise training and raise awareness

Develop a plan to ensure that all relevant individuals within the organisation are aware of the updated policy and understand their roles and responsibilities. Training should be ongoing to ensure that all employees understand their responsibilities, recognise signs of abuse or neglect, and know how to respond appropriately.

> See our Introduction to safeguarding and child protection training

Set regular review dates

Schedule regular reviews of the child safeguarding policies and procedures, typically at least once a year or whenever significant changes or a local incident occurs which highlights that a review is needed.

Make sure your plans are achievable and you're able to properly assess what's working well and what isn't.

> Get tailored help with reviewing your safeguarding policies and procedures through our safeguarding and child protection consultancy service

Legislation and guidance

Legislation and guidance

Each UK nation has its own child protection legislation and guidance.

As part of this, there is guidance setting out the safeguarding and child protection responsibilities of organisations and groups.

England

In England, the Department for Education (DfE) provides the key statutory guidance for anyone working with children and young people: Working together to safeguard children (DfE, 2023). This sets out how organisations should work together to keep children safe. Chapter 4: Organisational responsibilities sets out the requirements for voluntary, charity, social enterprise, faith-based organisations and private sectors. 

The DfE’s guidance What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused (PDF) describes the actions to take if you think a child is being abused or neglected. (DfE, 2015)

The DfE has published a voluntary code of practice for out-of-school settings. It includes advice on safeguarding and child protection, staff suitability, and governance (DfE, 2020).

If your organisation is a registered charity, you must also follow the Charity Commission’s guidance.

> Find out more about the safeguarding legislation and guidance for charities

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Department of Health has published Co-operating to safeguard children and young people in Northern Ireland (Department of Health, 2017). Section 3.8 sets out how voluntary, charitable, faith and community-based organisations should contribute to keep children safe.

The Revised regional core child protection policies and procedures for Northern Ireland explain what actions people who work with children should take if they have concerns about a child or young person’s welfare (Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland, 2021).

If your organisation is a registered charity, you must also follow the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland’s guidance.

> Find out more about the safeguarding legislation and guidance for charities

Scotland

In Scotland, the National guidance for child protection provides a framework for anyone who might face child protection issues (Scottish Government, 2023). This includes third sector organisations (voluntary and community organisations, charities, social enterprises, co-operatives and mutuals).

If your organisation is a registered charity, you must also follow guidance from the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

> Find out more about the safeguarding legislation and guidance for charities

Wales

The Welsh Government has published Working together to safeguard people, a suite of guidance and codes of practice that sets out how agencies and practitioners should work together to safeguard children (Welsh Government, 2019). 

Volume 5 (PDF) focuses on handling individual cases to protect children at risk.

The Working together to safeguard people: code of safeguarding practice sets out safeguarding expectations for all individuals, groups and organisations providing activities or services to children and adults in Wales (Welsh Government, 2022).

The Wales Safeguarding Procedures provide a framework for how child protection referrals, actions and plans should be carried out (Wales Safeguarding Procedures Project Board, 2020).

If your organisation is a registered charity, you must also follow the Charity Commission’s guidance.

> Find out more about the safeguarding legislation and guidance for charities

References and resources

References and resources

Department for Education (DfE) (2020) Keeping children safe in out-of-school settings: code of practice. [Accessed 25/11/2021].

Department for Education (DfE) (2015) What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused: advice for practitioners (PDF). London: HM Government.

Department for Education (DfE) (2023) Working together to safeguard children 2023: a guide to multi-agency working to help, protect and promote the welfare of children. [Accessed 15/12/2023].

Department of Health (2017) Co-operating to safeguard children and young people in Northern Ireland. [Accessed 25/11/2021].

Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) (2021) Revised regional core child protection policies and procedures for Northern Ireland. [Accessed 25/11/2021].

Scottish Government (2023) National guidance for child protection in Scotland. [Accessed 20/11/2023].

Wales Safeguarding Procedures Project Board (2020) Wales Safeguarding Procedures [Accessed 25/11/2021].

Welsh Government (2019) Working together to safeguard people: volume 5: handling individual cases to protect children at risk (PDF). Cardiff: Welsh Government

Welsh Government (2021) Safeguarding guidance. [Accessed 25/11/2021].

Welsh Government (2022) Working together to safeguard people: code for safeguarding practice. [Accessed 03/02/2022].

Childline

If a child or young person needs confidential help and advice after an image of them has been shared online, direct them to Childline. Calls to 0800 1111 are free and children can also contact Childline online.

You can also download or order Childline posters and wallet cards.

Elearning

Our elearning courses can help develop your understanding of how to protect children from abuse:

Related NSPCC resources

You may also be interested in the following NSPCC Learning resources:

References