For all those practitioners working in the early years’ setting, it’s hugely important to be aware of your role in safeguarding children in your care. There are many policies and measures that you are required to comply with to ensure the safety and well-being all the children you are working with.
First things first, what does ‘safeguarding’ actually mean?
Safeguarding is the term used to describe the protection of children from any abuse, maltreatment or impairment. Safeguarding procedures in early years’ setting have been created to ensure that the children are being provided with effective and safe care, and all efforts are being made to ensure that they have the best possible future.
For effective safeguarding, the following principles should be adhered to:
- A child’s happiness and needs should always be put first.
- Any issues should be dealt with before they affect a child’s welfare and become damaging.
It is every practitioner’s responsibility to safeguard children in an early years’ setting. This should be done in an organised and timely manner so any issues and concerns are resolved before they have a negative effect on any child.
Anyone who works with children in the early years’ setting should have a deep understanding of the signs and symptoms that indicate that a child’s welfare is at risk. Not only should you be able to stop the indicators, you also need to know how to respond to and resolve the situation, and how to make the necessary referrals for child protection.
Read the government guide Working Together to Safeguard Children (July 2018) in detail for a thorough understanding on how to safeguard children effectively.
Though these guides are for all practitioners working with children rather than specifically focused on an early years’ setting, it is still vital to go through them if you want to effectively safeguard children in your care. Use these guides to form the basis of your own safeguarding procedures in early years’ setting. They provide a really clear outline for responding to and recording concerns about the safety and wellbeing of young children.
How do local safeguarding children boards impact the procedures in place?
All early years safeguarding policies should be aligned with the policies of any local safeguarding children boards in your area. If you are in a leadership role in the early years’ organisation you work at, make sure that any practitioners there are aware of any local safeguarding policies and procedures.
The purpose of these local safeguarding children boards is to align localities across the country on how to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of children. They also help hold organisations accountable and ensure that safeguarding children remains a priority in their specific region.
Within your local board, you’ll have access to a designated officer (or even a team) that will be able to provide advice and offer support for any allegations of abuse and harm. All their safeguarding procedures will be available online, and they are likely to offer safeguarding training to organisations as well.
What do I do if I have any concerns about a child’s welfare?
As an early years practitioner, you need to be aware of any signs of abuse and how to report any concerns you may have. You need to be clear on where to escalate issues if needed. When a child is in your care, it is your responsibility to make sure that the necessary escalation has been done.
Have a feeling that something is wrong but not sure? Don’t be afraid to ask questions to address your concerns. If the response you receive doesn’t satisfy you that nothing is amiss, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. You need to be fully reassured that a child’s wellbeing is not at risk and that they are safe from any harm.
Worried about signs of abuse? There is also a national framework on What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused (issued in 2015)
What are the recommended early years safeguarding procedures for health and wellbeing?
Safeguarding is not just about safety, it is also about promoting health and wellbeing. Do this at your early years’ setting by implementing rules around hygiene and cleanliness. This will help prevent the spread of infections and bugs amongst children.
You should also have procedures in place for administering first aid and medical support of children who may fall unwell in your care. Make sure you are informed about any allergies that any of the children have - these should be disclosed to your organisation at the registration stage. Knowledge of allergies means that you can prevent any interaction with allergens.
Encouraging healthy eating and ensuring children are well hydrated should also be a priority for any early years practitioner.
Regular risk assessments are recommended to cover all aspects of the early years’ environment
Risk assessments should be done regularly to cover the physical setting, management and wellbeing of children in the early years setting. These could cover things like how any excursions are managed, whether there are any potential dangers in the children’s play or learn areas, and the effectiveness of rules put in place for children with challenging behaviour.
By regularly checking these aspects, an organisation can identify what more needs to be done to prevent harm and ensure the wellbeing and safety of children in their care.
How can a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check help with safeguarding procedures?
As an early years organisation, it is important to ensure that all practitioners working with children have undertaken a DBS check. This helps safeguard children in your care as it checks the suitability of those who are being entrusted with them. Those individuals who have a previous record of causing harm to anyone will be deemed unsuitable to work with children.
DBS checks were designed to prevent children being exposed to those childcare providers who may not be suitable to care for them. This extremely important safeguarding measure should be conducted on any person working with an early years organisation, whether that is a paid employee or a volunteer.
DBS checks do not include overseas criminal records. If you are an organisation considering hiring an individual who has lived abroad, you are within your rights to ask them to get a criminal records check from that country.
There are different levels of DBS checks, depending on how much interaction an individual directly has with the children at their setting.
To summarise, these are the recommended steps to follow to ensure safeguarding in an early years environment:
- As an early years organisation, you should be fully aware of any safeguarding procedures from your local safeguarding children board. It is the responsibility of the management of an organisation to ensure this information is cascaded down to all employees.
- The health and wellbeing of all children must be cared for by promoting healthy eating and providing access to clean water for hydration.
- All early years practitioners should be aware of any physical ailments or medical support required from children in their care. First aid training should be provided to all employees and volunteers looking after children in case of any emergencies.
- All practitioners working in your early years organisation should undertake a DBS check so they are fully vetted for their suitability in working with children.
- All employees and volunteers should be aware and have a clear understanding of any safeguarding policies that an organisation has put in place. They should be fully up to date an aligned on the latest procedures.
- All early years professionals should be informed about the necessary steps required to escalate any concerns they may have about any of the children’s welfare. They must be clear on what steps they need to take and how they need to report any issues.
- According to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EFS), there is a requirement that there needs to be a designated trained individual in every setting who should lead the safeguarding responsibilities there.
- Early years practitioners should be fully aware of the signs and symptoms of abuse, be that physical, sexual, emotional, or any other form of abuse or neglect.
- Where can I find out more about the latest early years safeguarding policy?
There is a range of documents by Ofsted that offer guidance about meeting safeguarding requirements. Within these documents, there is specific legislation that, as an early years practitioner, you should be aware of.